Israel seeks Zambia’s support to regain observer status at AU

ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked President Edgar Lungu to spearhead his country’s campaign to regain the observer status at the African Union.

The Head of State is in Israel for a five-day state visit. President Lungu was one of the seven African leaders prime minister Netanyahu met at a three-hour summit in Uganda in July and he is the only African leader who has been asked during his visit to push for Israel’s come back to the observer status.

Israel had struggled to retain the status since it lost it in 2002 and it had faced great opposition mainly from South Africa, North Muslim states, among others. The Palestinian Authority enjoys this status in the pan-African body, and as a result President Mahmoud Abbas each year addresses the annual summit, something that has made Israel unhappy.

In his remarks, President Lungu said Zambia stood a better chance to reap substantial benefits from its visit to Israel.

“Israel is a pace-setter in survival instincts because it has a desert; but they have a thriving education, agriculture and information and communication technology sectors and we can explore and learn from them. A lot of benefits are expected out of this trip. Zambia is one of the few African countries with a military attaché in Israel. We opened an embassy here in 2015 even though Israel does not have an embassy in Zambia,” President Lungu said.

And Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel hoped to deepen its cooperation with the Zambian government which he thought was important for both countries and peoples.

“I know that you’re opening a Jewish history museum in Zambia and soon a synagogue in the capital city. I hope one day I have the opportunity to visit those institutions and to visit Zambia,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Lungu is the latest in a long list of African leaders who have visited Israel over the past year.

Among the African leaders who have visited Israel within a year include presidents of Kenya, Sierra Leone and Togo, the prime minister of Swaziland, the deputy prime minister of Ethiopia, and the foreign ministers of Rwanda, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

In addition, Netanyahu met representatives of some 15 African states on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.
Netanyahu is scheduled to attend a summit with the leaders of more than a dozen African states in Togo.
President Lungu is accompanied by health minister Chitalu Chilufya, agriculture minister Dora Siliya, David Mabumba [energy] and Lloyd Kaziya [water development], Harry Kalaba [foreign affairs], Brian Mushimba [transport], Margaret Mwanakatwe [commerce], Charles Banda [tourism], political adviser Kaizar Zulu and senior private secretary Danny Siwo. JC/News

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