Israeli Diplomat Removed from African Union Summit

A senior Israeli ambassador was expelled from the annual meeting of the African Union in Ethiopia as tensions over Israel’s membership in the organisation grew.

Security guards were seen escorting Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li from the summit’s opening ceremony in Addis Ababa in a footage shared on social media.

The diplomat was expelled, according to Ebba Kalondo, the spokesman for the head of the African Union, since she was not the legitimate Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia, as was anticipated.

An AU official later told newsmen that the diplomat who was “asked to leave” had not been invited to the meeting, with a non-transferable invitation issued only to Israel’s ambassador to the African Union, Aleli Admasu.

“It is regrettable that the individual in question would abuse such a courtesy,” the official added.

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The move was swiftly condemned by Israel.

“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,” the Israeli foreign ministry said.

Israel said that the event was caused by South Africa and Algeria, two important members of the 55-nation bloc, who were holding the AU hostage and acting out of “hatred.”

At the summit, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, requested that Israel “substantiate their claim” after the latter claimed that Iran, its archenemy, had orchestrated the action with the aid of Algeria and South Africa.

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The charge d’affaires of the South African embassy would be called in for a warning, according to Israel’s foreign ministry.

South Africa denied the assertion, claiming that the AU had not yet made a decision about Israel’s request for observer status.

“Until the AU takes a decision on whether to grant Israel observer status, you cannot have the country sitting and observing,” Clayson Monyela, head of public diplomacy in South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation, told Reuters news agency.

“So, it’s not about South Africa or Algeria, it’s an issue of principle.”

The conflict over Israel’s observer status within the union began in July 2021, when Moussa Faki Mahamat, the then-chair of the AU Commission, accepted the nation’s accreditation on his own.

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Some member states protested the action and demanded that the status be revoked.

South Africa and Algeria, two influential members, led the criticism, arguing that the decision went against AU pronouncements supporting the occupied Palestinian territory.

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