Throughout the five-day trip, Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted broadly about developing ties with Arab countries that have long regarded Israel as an enemy.

By Jonathan Ferziger (Bloomberg) |

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrapped up a trip to four countries in east Africa by encouraging Israelis to invest in Ethiopian businesses while seeking political support to block the frequent condemnations Israel receives at the United Nations.

Netanyahu also hinted at warming relations with Muslim countries that he didn’t identify, denied that Kenyan authorities foiled an assassination attempt in Nairobi, and stopped to gaze at two lions on a stroll with Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome on his palace grounds.

Netanyahu pointed to $1 billion spent in Ethiopia by Israel Chemicals Ltd., which bought a potash mine in the northern Danakhil region, as an example of opportunities investors should emulate in Africa. He also cited a $190 million irrigation contract Netafim Ltd. signed with a government sugar-cane plantation.

Standing next to Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at a press conference in Addis Ababa, Netanyahu said he was “absolutely delighted” that business and diplomatic relationships are “congealing and consolidating for a recognition that all African countries, all of them without exception, can benefit from a renewed cooperation with Israel.”

Desalegn, whose country will become a member of the UN Security Council next year, said he favored reinstating Israel as an observer nation in the African Union, which represents 54 nations on the continent. At the same time he pledged to continue Ethiopia’s support for Palestinian statehood. He left vague whether he thought the issue should be addressed by the Security Council, a step Israel and the U.S. have fought for years to avoid.

“Israel is working very hard in many African countries,” Desalegn said. “There is no reason to deny this observer position to Israel.”

ALSO READ: Ethio-Israeli Business Forum: A Gear to Foster Long-standing Relation

The two also spoke at a business conference that brought executives from 50 Israeli companies to meet Ethiopian counterparts. Desalegn said his country needs Israel’s expertise in technology, particularly in management of water resources, light manufacturing and security. The Israeli delegation attended a similar conference with Netanyahu in Kenya on Tuesday.

At the press conference, Netanyahu denied a report in Kuwait’s Al-Jarida newspaper that his convoy was redirected on its journey from Nairobi’s airport to a city hotel on Monday after Kenyan authorities said bombs had been detected along the planned route. “We know nothing about it because there’s nothing in it,” he said.

Throughout the five-day trip, Netanyahu has hinted broadly about developing ties with Arab countries that have long regarded Israel as an enemy. In a phone briefing with reporters, Netanyahu said he would soon meet the head of a Muslim state that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, declining to name the country. He said it was arranged by an African leader he met in the course of this week’s tour.

Source: Bloomberg
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