South Africa has downgraded its embassy to Israel, the first phase in reducing diplomatic relations between the two countries at the request of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.
In this first phase, South Africa’s formerly full-service embassy in Tel Aviv has been downgraded to a liaison office, a diplomatic mission with limited functionality. South Africa’s Minister of International Relations, Lindiwe Sisulu, explained in a statement that this liaison office,
“Will have no political mandate, no trade mandate and no development-cooperation mandate”.
PRETORIA: South Africa completes stage one in the downgrading process of its Tel Aviv Embassy to a 'liaison office' that will have no political mandate, no trade mandate & no development co-operation mandate. Ambassador Sisa recalled #IsraeliApartheidWeek
— The Muthoka® (@MuthokaTito) April 5, 2019
Sisulu added that the liaison office would now focus only on “consular [assistance] and the facilitation of people-to-people relations”. South Africa’s Ambassador to Tel Aviv, Sisa Ngombane, has also been permanently recalled as part of the downgrade, AfroPal Forum reported.
The decision to downgrade the embassy was taken in 2017 after the ANC party implemented a resolution directing the South African government to “immediately and unconditionally downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office”.
South Africa to downgrade embassy in Israel over its violations of Palestinian people's rights, reluctance to engage in two-state solution talks, President Ramaphosa says https://t.co/s6CPFywK8P
— DAILY SABAH (@DailySabah) March 8, 2019
The ANC called the resolution “a practical expression of support [for] the oppressed people of Palestine” and a means of pressuring Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories.
This week’s downgrade comes in the wake of an ongoing diplomatic spat between Israel and South Africa.
(MEMO, PC, Social Media)