NAIROBI – Foreign Minister Eli Cohen arrived in Nairobi on Sunday at the invitation of the Kenyan government.
Cohen arrived in Nairobi as the Fifth Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union was underway at the United Nations Office in Gigiri.
The meeting also dealt in the “fields of agriculture, tourism and cyber,” after Kenya’s decision to have Israel lead its national cyber programme.
President Raisi on Wednesday started a tour of Africa that included Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
In Kenya, five MoUs in agriculture and livestock; culture and heritage; ICT, fisheries, housing, urban and metropolitan development. as well as in technical and vocational training were signed.
In the joint press conference, President Ruto said he had a commitment from President Raisi to facilitate the export of more tea, meat and agricultural products to Iran, and that through Tehran, Kenya will be able to export to Central Asian countries.
Israel and Iran are engaged in opens hostility, a situation that has deteriorated since 1979. Since 1985, they have been engaged in an ongoing proxy conflict that has greatly affected the geopolitics of the Middle East, and has included direct military confrontations between Iranian and Israeli organizations, such as in the 2006 Lebanon War.
Kenya is one of Israel’s most prominent African allies and has been key in supporting its observer status at the African Union. However, this has been a controversial topic, with an observer delegation led by a senior Israeli diplomat being ejected from the opening ceremony of the African Summit in February this year.
A video released online showed the Israelis, led by Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for Africa Sharon Bar-Li, being escorted out by a guard, an event that infuriated Tel Aviv.
“Israel looks harshly upon the incident in which the deputy director for Africa, Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li, was removed from the African Union hall despite her status as an accredited observer with entrance badges,” Israeli Foreign ministry said, blaming the incident on South Africa and Algeria, saying they were holding the AU hostage and were driven by “hate”.
However, African Union’s commission chairman spokesperson Ebba Kalondo said Bar-Li had been removed because she was not the duly accredited Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia, the official who was expected.
AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki gave a further clarification, saying Israel’s observer status with the organization had been suspended and the country was thus not invited to its weekend summit.
“Last year we discussed the question of Israel’s status as an observer in the African Union. Following these various discussions, the conference decided to set up an ad hoc committee of heads of state on the question, which means that the statute is suspended until this committee can deliberate. And so we did not invite Israeli officials to our summit,” Faki said.
Faki had granted the observer status to Israel in 2021, sparking an outcry throughout the pan-African bloc and protests in particular from Algeria and South Africa.
A committee of heads of state was then set up last year to discuss the withdrawal of accreditation.