Israel blamed the incident on South Africa and Algeria, but African Union officials say they were just following protocol
A senior Israeli diplomat and her delegation have been expelled from the African Union’s annual summit in Ethiopia. Video footage showed the Israelis being escorted out by security guards.
Sharon Bar-li, the deputy director of the Israeli foreign ministry’s Africa division, was removed from the premises in Addis Ababa along with her team on Saturday. The Israeli Foreign Ministry condemned the expulsion, arguing that Israel is an accredited observer at the African Union’s annual meeting, and Bar-li had her paperwork in order.
“Israel looks harshly upon the incident in which the deputy director for Africa, Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li, was removed from the African Union hall despite her status as an accredited observer with entrance badges,” spokesperson Lior Hayat said.
Hayat blamed “a small number of extremist countries such as Algeria and South Africa” for the decision to boot Bar-li, claiming that these nations are “driven by hatred and controlled by Iran.”
תקרית דיפלומטית חמורה: חברי משלחת ישראל גורשו מאולם ועידת האיחוד האפריקני | צפו@BarakRavid pic.twitter.com/uNiffXhugf
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Israel was granted observer status at the African Union in 2021, although the decision was bitterly opposed by some members of the 55-country bloc, including South Africa and Algeria. The union responded by setting up a committee to re-evaluate Israel’s status, which is due to give its recommendations at this year’s summit.
A spokesperson for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa denied any responsibility, while an African Union spokesperson Ebba Kalondo told Reuters that the union was expecting Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union, Aleli Admasu, instead of Bar-li.
Regardless, South Africa backed the decision to expel the diplomat. “It’s not about South Africa or Algeria, it’s an issue of principle,” Ramaphosa’s spokesperson told Reuters. “Until the AU takes a decision on whether to grant Israel observer status, you cannot have the country sitting and observing.”