TEL AVIV – Israel on Saturday decried the “severe” expulsion of a senior ambassador from the African Union summit, accusing its arch-enemy Iran of coordinating the move with the aid of Algeria and South Africa.
A video that is making the rounds on social media shows security removing Sharon Bar-li, the deputy director general for Africa at the Israeli foreign ministry, out of the AU meeting that is taking place in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
The event was dubbed “serious” by an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, who also noted that Bar-li was “an accredited observer with an admission tag,” a claim that was refuted by an AU representative.
According to the ministry spokeswoman, it is “saddening to witness the African Union being held prisoner by a small number of extremist regimes, such as Algeria and South Africa, who are motivated by hatred and under the direction of Iran.”
The official added that African states should “oppose these measures, which hurt the African Union movement and the entire continent.”
The diplomat who was “requested to leave,” according to an AU official who was quoted by AFP, had not been invited to the meeting; instead, only Israel’s ambassador to the African Union, Aleli Admasu, had received a non-transferable invitation.
“It is regrettable that the individual in question would abuse such a courtesy,” the official said.
Israel-African Union dilemma
After decades of diplomatic attempts, Israel was granted observer status at the AU in 2021, which drew criticism from certain influential members, like South Africa and Algeria, who claimed that it went against AU pronouncements supporting the Palestinians.
Last year, tensions erupted over the AU’s accreditation of Jerusalem as an observer, with the Palestinians, who are also observers at the organisation, calling for its withdrawal.
A committee was established to deal with the issue after the 2022 summit put on hold a discussion about whether to revoke accreditation.
When Moussa Faki Mahamat, the head of the African Union Commission, approved Jerusalem’s accreditation, a rare disagreement within a group that cherishes consensus occurred.
Israel’s status may be discussed during this year’s summit, however the AU has not confirmed this.
Israel used to be a member of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), but after the OAU was replaced by the AU in 2002, Israel’s attempts to regain observer status there were repeatedly rebuffed.