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Foreign ministry says Africa-Israel Summit postponed due to Palestinian pressure

Sept. 11, 2017 7:59 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 11, 2017 10:56 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday it was instrumental in leading a boycott campaign against the Africa-Israel Summit planned for next month, after organizers of the summit announced the event was “postponed” without providing a future date.

Last month, reports emerged that several African countries were planning to boycott the summit. South African Ambassador to Lebanon and Syria Sean Benfeldt reportedly said that the country would not take part because the summit was viewed as a step by Israel to normalize relations between Africa and an “occupation state.” Sudan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Mauritania also decided to boycott the gathering.

A statement released by the Israeli foreign ministry Monday morning said that the decision to “postpone” the event, set to take place in Lome in October, came “following the request of the President of Togo and after mutual consultations with the Prime Minister.”

Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe “emphasized that elaborate preparations are needed in order to guarantee the success of the event,” the statement said, and added that Gnassingbe “thanked and praised the (Israeli) Prime Minister for his determination to strengthen the cooperation between his country and Israel as well as for his personal engagement to guarantee the initiative to hold the summit.”

However, the Palestinian foreign ministry released a statement later on Monday, claiming that the collapse of the summit came as a result of diplomatic pressure upon instructions from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"It's obvious the decision was a result of sizable pressure,” the statement said. The Africa-Israel summit, according to the ministry, was an Israeli effort to "enhance Israel's influence in the African continent and to make the continent dependent on Israeli technology and knowledge alone."

"The Arab League, along with the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, and other Arab and Islamic groups and parliaments of Arab countries, have adopted several initiatives seeking to counter and thwart that summit," the statement concluded.

However, sources cited by Israel’s i24 News said that Togo had concerns about security at the summit, amid a crackdown on major anti-government protests in the country. Anonymous diplomatic sources also told Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post that the postponement had nothing to do with international pressure or domestic internal concerns, but was solely the result of unrest stemming from the protests.

The summit would have been the first of its kind -- and would have reportedly been attended by two dozen heads of state including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as 150 Israeli companies and potentially senior officials from countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel.

Leaders from Africa and Israel planned to discuss ways to enhance cooperation in the fields of technology, development, and security, with Israeli advertised as “the global leader in the fields of security and counter-terrorism,” offering “a validated track record of providing such expertise to its partner nations throughout the globe.”

Mustafa Barghouti, the former Palestinian information minister and general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative political party, argued in an interview with Al Jazeera that Israel was attempting to "market" their products and surveillance services, especially at a time where the activities of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement are proving effective in curbing Israel's economic success.

In a letter addressed to African governments, Palestinians had called for a boycott of summit. The letter read: "African countries which fought colonialism for decades and became free after a long suffering should never associate themselves with the only, longest and most brutal colonial project in the world today…in the name of justice and freedom and in the name of the African legacy of long struggle for freedom, we ask your country to disassociate from Israel's Apartheid regime.”

Abbas, addressing the 28th summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa in January, also urged African nations not to entertain relations with Israel: “We urge you that this should not be done at the expense of the just cause of our Palestinian people, which still needs your help to get rid of the abhorrent Israeli occupation…(Israel is) creating a one-state reality with an apartheid system imposed on our people.”
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