JERUSALEM (JTA) – The president of the African nation of Chad on a visit to Israel said he is ready to restore ties between his Muslim-majority country and the Jewish State.
The visit to Israel by Chad President Idriss Deby is “historic,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet hours before the president’s arrival.
Deby arrived in Israel for an official visit on Sunday, the first president of the country ever to visit Israel. The two countries severed diplomatic ties in 1972.
“The relations between our countries were cut in 1972 for specific historic reasons, but our special relations continued all the time,” Deby said. “The current visit to your beautiful country expresses our desire to take the relations that existed all the time and make them stronger.” He added: “The resumption of diplomatic relations with your country, which I desire, does not make us ignore the Palestinian issue. My country is profoundly attached to the peace process and has shaped the Arab peace initiative, the Madrid principles and existing agreements.”
Netanyahu said during the statements by the two leaders to the media that Deby is “paving the way” for many other African nations to renew ties with Israel.
Netanyahu earlier noted to his cabinet that the visit is the outgrowth of the ceremonies in Paris to mark the end of World War I. Netanyahu said he met Deby on the sidelines of the event and encouraged him to visit.
“This visit reflects the rising status of Israel among the nations. I reiterate this time and again. Every week we see the implementation of this concept, of cultivating economic-technological strength, alongside security-intelligence strength, to receive political-diplomatic strength. This is happening before our eyes, one might say, on a daily basis,” Netanyahu said. He asserted that “there will yet be other countries soon.”
Deby has served as president of Chad since 1990.
Meanwhile, the president of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, arrived in Israel on Sunday evening for a three-day state visit.
Zeman is scheduled to open the “Czech House,” a cultural centre in Jerusalem during the visit, and it is said to be the first step toward establishing an embassy in Jerusalem, according to reports. The Czech House will contain government institutions including the foreign ministry’s Czech Center, the trade agency CzechTrade and tourism agency CzechTourism.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has not confirmed plans for an eventual embassy in Jerusalem. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis is against such a move.
Zeman is scheduled to lay a wreath at the Mount Herzl military cemetery, to visit Yad Vashem and to give a speech in the Knesset on Monday afternoon.