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Israeli delegation kicked out of African Union summit following Algeria, South Africa objections

African heads of state pose for a group picture together with Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres during the opening of the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Africa Union at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 18, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

An Israeli observer delegation at the African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa has been expelled from the opening ceremony, after representatives from South Africa and Algeria reportedly objected to the presence of diplomats from the apartheid Tel Aviv regime in the event.

According to the Israeli Walla news website, which first reported the incident, security guards approached the Israeli delegation during the Saturday ceremony and demanded that they leave.

A video footage shows the Israelis, led by Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for Africa Sharon Bar-Li, leaving after several minutes of argument.

Back in early February last year, the African Union (AU) suspended a debate on whether to grant Israel an observer status at the continental body, avoiding a vote that risked creating an unprecedented rift in the 55-member bloc.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh at the time urged African leaders to withdraw the accreditation, saying Israel should “never be rewarded for its violation and for the apartheid regime it does impose on Palestinian people.”

The AU’s Chairman Macky Sall told reporters at the end of the two-day summit back then that there was an agreement to postpone the vote.

“This issue can divide us, Africa cannot be divided,” he said, noting that such a development would result in a fragile institution that may not effectively tackle major issues. He said a committee has been set up with the goal of consulting with member states and building a consensus on the matter.

Israel was granted observer status in the African Union in July 2021. The accreditation drew a sharp rebuke from powerful members of the AU, including South Africa and Algeria, which argued that it contradicted AU statements supporting the occupied Palestinian territories.

Pro-Palestine language is typically featured in statements delivered at the AU’s annual summits. Palestine already has observer status at the African Union.

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