Israel and Cameroon restored diplomatic relations Tuesday, ending a 13-year break and boosting the Jewish state’s campaign to expand ties with black Africa.
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and President Paul Biya of Cameroon announced the agreement in a joint communique after two days of talks.
The talks were overshadowed by a natural catastrophe in which more than 1,500 Cameroonians in a remote area have been killed by toxic gas. Israeli experts have been helping in relief efforts.
Agrees to Visit
“I thank President Biya for the courageous decision to renew diplomatic relations with Israel,” Peres told reporters. He said that Biya agreed to visit Israel but that no date was set.
The Israeli leader was seen off at Yaounde airport by Biya, accompanied by drummers, chanters and dancers.
Cameroon was one of many African countries that broke ties with Israel after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Since 1982, Zaire, Liberia and the Ivory Coast have restored relations.
Biya, at a news conference after the first day of talks, said Cameroon broke with Israel as an act of solidarity with the Arab states, “but an act of solidarity can be limited in time.” He predicted that other black African countries will follow Cameroon in renewing relations, but he declined to name them.
A major obstacle to closer ties between Israel and many African states has been Israel’s dealings with South Africa.
In Tuesday’s communique, read to reporters in French and Hebrew, the two countries said they are both committed to fighting South Africa’s apartheid system of racial segregation.
They also called for a Middle East peace solution based on U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, which are not accepted by Israel’s Arab antagonists, according to Israel radio.