ETHIOPIA: The African Union has said that Israel’s observer status at the bloc was suspended which is why it was not invited to attend the weekend summit.
The news comes after Israeli ambassador Sharon Bar-li was removed from the African Union’s annual summit in Ethiopia on Saturday as she attempted to attend using a non-transferable invitation issued only to Israel’s ambassador to the African Union, Aleli Admasu.
“The status is suspended until such time as this committee can deliberate … and so we did not invite Israeli officials to our summit,” AU Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat told reporters on Sunday, adding that an investigation was being conducted into Saturday’s incident.
A spokesperson for Israel’s foreign ministry said Bar-li was “an accredited observer with an entry tag”, and accused the AU of being taken hostage by a “small number of extremist states like Algeria and South Africa, which are driven by hatred and controlled by Iran”.
The incident highlighted a spat within the pan-African bloc over a unilateral 2021 decision by Mahamat to give Israel observer status, triggering protests by several member states.
Israel obtained observer status after two decades of diplomatic efforts. It had previously held the role at the Organization of African Unity (OAU) but was long thwarted in its attempts to regain it after the OAU was disbanded in 2002 and replaced by the AU.
The Israeli foreign ministry said at the time that the new status could enable Israel and the AU to forge stronger cooperation on various aspects, including the fight against the coronavirus and the prevention “of the spread of extremist terrorism” on the African continent.
Last year’s AU summit suspended a debate on whether to withdraw the accreditation and established a committee of heads of state to address the issue.
The South African government said the African Union’s decision to award Israel the status was “even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land”.
South Africa backs the Palestinian cause, with formal diplomatic relations established in 1995, a year after the end of apartheid. It downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office in 2019.
Earlier, the African Union (AU) has suspended a debate on whether to withdraw Israel’s accreditation as an observer to the bloc, avoiding a vote that risked creating an unprecedented rift in the 55-member body.
As the summit opened in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, on Saturday, Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh urged African leaders to withdraw the accreditation, saying Israel should “never be rewarded for its violation and for the apartheid regime it does impose on the Palestinian people”.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the two-day summit on Sunday, the AU’s newly elected Chairman Macky Sall said there was an agreement to postpone the vote until the next summit in 2023.
“This issue can divide us, Africa cannot be divided,” he told reporters, saying such a development would result in a fragile institution that may not effectively tackle major issues. (Int’l News Desk)