Israeli diplomat escorted from AU summit

Israeli diplomat Sharon Bar-li was escorted from the African Union heads of state summit as she was not the person accredited to represent Israel, an AU spokesperson has said.

Video circulating online shows her being walked out of the meeting in Ethiopia by a security guard.

An Israeli spokesperson has blamed South Africa and Algeria for the removal.

Israel’s status at the AU has been a source of contention.

The video appears to show a security guard approaching the Israeli delegation while the opening ceremony of the annual meeting was going on.

There was a discussion and Ms Bar-li, who is the deputy director general for Africa at Israel’s foreign ministry, then left alongside a security guard.

“Israel views seriously the incident in which… Ambassador Sharon Bar-li, was removed from the African Union hall despite her status as an accredited observer with access badges,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lior Hayat is quoted by the Times of Israel as saying.

He then blamed Algeria and South Africa as being behind the move, adding that they were “driven by hatred”.

But an AU official has said Ms Bar-li was “asked to leave” as she had not been invited to be there and the only invitation, which was not transferable, was given to Israel’s AU ambassador Aleli Admasu, the AFP news agency reports.

“It is regrettable that the individual in question would abuse such a courtesy,” AFP quotes the unnamed official as saying.

AU commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat granted Israel observer status in 2021, but this decision was queried, with Palestinians urging a rethink, and a committee was formed last year to look at the issue.

While rejecting the accusation that it had anything to do with the diplomat’s removal, a South African spokesperson said that Israel’s status had not yet been settled., the Reuters news agency reports.

“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, is quoted as saying.

In recent years, Israel has made a big effort to strengthen diplomatic relations with several African countries.

Earlier this month, Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno was in Israel to open an embassy in Tel Aviv.

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