South Africa, one of the members of the African Union (AU), claimed on Sunday, February 19, that since Israel’s status as observer is not yet finalized, the expulsion of its delegate a day earlier from AU’s annual summit meeting was justified, Reuters reported.
A video was posted on social media on Saturday showing Israel’s deputy director for Africa Sharon Bar Li being asked to leave the inaugural meeting of the AU annual summit held in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa by security.
Ebba Kalondo, spokesperson of the AU chairperson, was later quoted by the news agencies saying that Bar Li was asked to leave the meeting because she was not invited to the summit and AU had only issued a non-transferable invitation to Israeli ambassador to the African Union, Aleli Admasu.
Reacting to the news, Israel claimed that its diplomat was duly accredited to attend the meet and criticized South Africa and Algeria for the incident, claiming that “the African Union has been taken hostage by a small number of extremist countries such as Algeria and South Africa driven by hatred and controlled by Iran.”
However, South Africa rejected Israeli accusations claiming that Israel’s status as an observer of the African Union was not yet settled and “until the AU takes a decision on whether to grant Israel observer status, you cannot have the country sitting and observing.”
There were reports in July 2021 that Israel had been granted observer status of the 55-member African Union. However, several members of the group, including South Africa and Algeria, had objected to what they called “unilateral acceptance” of its accreditation by the then chairman of the AU commission Mousa Faki Mahamat.
South Africa had claimed at the time that Israel’s observer status contradicted the AU’s expressed support to the Palestinian people and it “cannot be a party in any way to plans and actions that would see the ideals of Palestinian statehood reduced into balkanized entities devoid of true sovereignty, without territorial contiguity and with no economic viability.”
Palestine has observer status at the African Union and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh attended the summit meeting on Saturday.
The African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party, also welcomed the ousting of the Israeli delegate, and said that Israel’s attending the summit was an “attempt to undermine the current sitting AU summit from considering a report that is supposed to guide discussions on whether Israel must be granted an observer status.”
ANC also made clear that it was opposed to the “AU granting apartheid Israel any observer status.”