(JNS) — Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met on Sunday with a senior official of an African Muslim country with no diplomatic ties to the Jewish state.
The meeting took place under the condition that the name of the country not be published.
Cohen returned on Monday from a 10-hour visit to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi at the invitation of the African nation’s president, William Ruto, and foreign minister, Alfred Mutua. While there, he attended the African Union’s Mid-Year Coordination Meeting.
The meeting with the official from the unnamed Muslim country took place in the context of Israel’s push to expand the Abraham Accords and counter Iranian influence in Africa. The Foreign Ministry told Ynet News that “normalization contacts are being held with several African countries, including Niger, Mali and Mauritania.”
At the summit, Cohen met with Mutua and other senior African officials, according to his office.
Cohen thanked Ruto and Mutua “for their efforts to promote Israel’s position on the continent and to open doors for the State of Israel in countries on the continent with which we do not yet have diplomatic relations.”
The press statement said that during bilateral meetings “the ministers discussed strengthening the ties between Israel and Kenya and the African continent and expanding the circle of peace with other African countries.”
His trip to Kenya was also “of regional and strategic importance against the background of Iran’s attempts to expand its influence on the continent,” Cohen’s office said.
Israel and Mauritania established diplomatic relations in 1999 but Mauritania cut ties in 2008 due to that year’s Gaza war (“Operation Cast Lead”).
Israel has never had official diplomatic relations with Niger, and those that did exist unofficially suffered during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the 2000-05 Second Intifada.