KENYAN LEADER URGES ISRAEL TO RE-ESTABLISH OBSERVER STATUS AT AFRICAN UNION

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya has urged Israel to re-establish its observer status at the African Union (AU), describing the country as a critical partner in Africa's fight against extremism.

Kenyatta said here Wednesday that despite past frosty relations between Israel and many African countries, it was important for the continent to embrace new partnerships.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Nairobi on the second leg of a four-nation African tour, said Israel is back in Africa and is ready to co-operate on areas of security, agriculture and water resources.

Netanyahu's tour takes him to Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia and is the first visit by a top Israeli leader to Africa in more than three decades.

The tour is seen as a way of reaching out to a continent which has largely limited or cut ties with Israel. Relations between Israel and South Africa's former apartheid government was one of the reasons many African countries severed ties with Israel.

"Kenya will continue to push to see how Israel will regain her observer position at the AU, this is not just good for Kenya it is good for Africa, and global peace," said Kenyatta.

"It would be foolhardy faced with such challenges to say that Kenya and African cannot engage with Israel; it would be like burying our head in the sand."

Netanyahu said: "Things are changing between Israel and many of our Arab neighbours and a similar change is happening between Israel and several African countries."

While Netanyahu kept off the issue of Palestine, Kenyatta made a plea for talks. "We continue to encourage that peace talks be held between Israeli and Palestinians," the president said.

Netanyahu said that with the rise of extremism, Israel would assist African nations in intelligence gathering in the continent's fight against terror. "The practical result of our co-operation can be greater prosperity and security for each and every one of them."

Israeli media reports indicate that the country may seek allies in African countries to reduce the Palestinian voice at United Nations. Palestine has a non-member observer status at the United Nations.

Source: Nam News Network