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S. Sudan Leader Visits Old Ally Israel

Published: 21/12/2011 01:34:32 PM GMT
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OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - In his first visit since secession from Sudan this year, South Sudan's president Salva Kiir arrived in Israel on Tuesday, December 20 for talks with Israeli officials. This is a working visit of just o (more)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - In his first visit since secession from Sudan this year, South Sudan's president Salva Kiir arrived in Israel on Tuesday, December 20 for talks with Israeli officials.

"This is a working visit of just one day," a diplomatic source told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Kiir held talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres and toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

He was also scheduled to hold talks with hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The diplomatic source said the aim was to keep the visit "low-profile" at the request of South Sudan.

Kiir was not expected to make any public remarks.

The visit is the first by Kiir to Israel since the secession of the South from Sudan in July.

The secession was the climax of a 2005 peace agreement that ended two decades of a civil war in Sudan that claimed the lives of two million people.

South Sudanese overwhelmingly voted in a January referendum granted by the peace agreement to secede from the north.

Israel recognized largely Christian South Sudan and established full diplomatic relations with Kiir's government following the split.

Old Allies

Israel, which has no diplomatic relations with the Muslim-majority north, has strong relations with South Sudan.

"I am very moved to be in Israel and to walk on the soil of the Promised Land, and with me are all South Sudanese people," Kiir said, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“Israel has always supported the South Sudanese people.

"Without you, we would not have arisen.  You struggled alongside us in order to allow the establishment of South Sudan and we are interested in learning from your experience."

Kiir's talks were expected to focus on issues of arms and refugees.

"I visited South Sudan in August and got the impression that they were very interested in Israeli assistance on issues such as the military and welfare, and development in general," said Knesset Member Danny Danon (Likud), who heads the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, reported Yediot Aharonot.

"During my visit I discussed the illegal immigration problem with (Kiir), and he is aware of it," added Danon, who is accompanying the South Sudanese leader during the visit.

Israel, which has no diplomatic relations with the Muslim-majority north, has strong relations with South Sudan.

The Jewish state has reportedly provided arms to the south during the country's civil war, although neither side has publicly acknowledged any weapons transfer.

Israel is home to thousands of refugees from the former united Sudan, including hundreds from the south.

So far, this year, more than 12,000 illegal immigrants have sneaked across the Egyptian border into southern Israel, the vast majority of them economic migrants from Africa.

Government figures put the number of illegal workers in Israel at over 52,000.The Israeli government unveiled this month a $167 million plan to try to stem the flow of African migrants who cross into the country.

Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net




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