Netanyahu Invitation to West African Summit in Doubt

YERUSHALAYIM -
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the Third GECF (Gas Exporting Countries Forum) summit, in Tehran on November 23, 2015. (Hamed Malekpour)
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the Third GECF (Gas Exporting Countries Forum) summit, in Tehran on November 23, 2015. (Hamed Malekpour)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s participation in the summit of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) later this year is reportedly in doubt due to the reluctance of the host nation, Nigeria, to agree to the invitation.

A source close to ECOWAS was quoted by The Jerusalem Post as saying that the agreement of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari might not be forthcoming. Since all 15 members states must agree to such an invitation, Netanyahu’s plan may not come off.

Israel’s relations with Nigeria, which were friendly under the presidency of its Christian president Goodluck Jonathan, have deteriorated since Buhari, a Muslim, defeated him in the 2015 elections. The change has been reflected in Nigeria’s voting pattern on Israel in international forums.

Israel has been pursuing contacts with non-Muslim nations in its current drive to improve ties with Africa. ECOWAS includes two Muslim countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties, Mali and Niger.

Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold, who met Sunday in Guinea with President Alpha Conde, stopped on his way back from West Africa to Israel in a Muslim country in the region where Israel has no official ties, the Post said on Tuesday.

In July, shortly after Netanyahu’s trip to East Africa, Israel re-established relations with Muslim-majority Guinea. Gold then went to Chad, another African-Muslim state without diplomatic relations with Israel, where he consulted with President Idriss Deby Itno.

However, even if the ECOWAS plan falls through, Netanyahu will still have somewhere to go. Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé is planning an Israeli-African summit on “security and development” in the capital Lome׳. The Togo gathering will not be until March or April, though, whereas the ECOWAS summit in Ajuba is set for the end of this year.