Israeli diplomat removed from African Union summit

A senior Israeli diplomat has been removed from the African Union’s annual summit in Ethiopia as a dispute over Israel’s accreditation to the bloc escalated.

A video posted on social media showed security personnel walking Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li out of the auditorium during the opening ceremony of the summit in Addis Ababa on Saturday.

Ebba Kalondo, the spokesperson for the African Union’s chairman, said the diplomat was removed because she was not the duly accredited Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia – the official who was expected.

An AU official later told AFP news agency 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.“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 blamed the incident on South Africa and Algeria, two key nations in the 55-country bloc, saying they were holding the AU hostage and were driven by “hate”.

Vincent Magwenya, spokesman for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa present at the summit, demanded that Israel “substantiate their claim” after the latter accused arch-foe Iran of orchestrating the move with help from Algeria and South Africa.

Israel’s foreign ministry said the charge d’affaires at South Africa’s embassy would be summoned for a reprimand.

South Africa rejected the claim, saying Israel’s application for observer status at the AU has not been decided upon by the bloc.

“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 dispute over Israel’s observer status to the bloc was set in motion in July 2021 when then-chair of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, accepted unilaterally the country’s accreditation.

The move triggered an uproar from a number of member states demanding the status be withdrawn.

The protest was spearheaded by South Africa and Algeria, two powerful members who argued the decision flew in the face of AU statements supporting the occupied Palestinian territories.

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