Israel plans to renew ties with largely Muslim nation Guinea


JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Israel said Wednesday it has renewed diplomatic ties with the largely Muslim African country of Guinea, the latest step in Israel’s courtship of the continent.

Israel’s foreign ministry announced that the countries have restored ties after 49 years. The director of Israel’s foreign ministry, Dore Gold, signed an agreement in Paris with the chief of staff of Guinea’s presidential office, Ibrahim Khalil Kaba.

The news comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s four-nation Africa tour earlier this month. It was the first visit to sub-Saharan Africa by a sitting Israeli prime minister in nearly three decades.

Israel is pursuing closer security and other ties with Africa, and it wants African states to support it at the United Nations, where the Palestinians were recognized as a non-member observer state in 2012.

The new agreement says Guinea was the first country to cut ties with Israel after the 1967 Mideast war, when Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip from its Arab foes.

It also says Guinea and Israel have had friendly relations even in the absence of diplomatic ties. Israel took part in the international effort to halt the recent Ebola virus outbreak, which seriously hit the West African country.

Israel said the number of African countries with which it doesn’t have diplomatic ties is shrinking, and it hopes others will follow Guinea’s example.

Israel’s foreign ministry lists several Muslim or largely Muslim countries that have no current ties with it. Many are in northern and West Africa.

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Associated Press writer Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem contributed.