The leader of South Sudan—which was recognized as an independent state by the United Nations earlier this year—paid what was called a “historic” visit to Israel on Tuesday. South Sudan achieved a negotiated independence from Sudan, a Muslim nation that is hostile towards Israel. However, relations between the southern Sudanese and the Jewish state have long been productive.
President Salva Kiir met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials during his visit, with the two nations expressing interest in continuing their cooperation. In a press statement, Netanyahu’s office said that the two leaders “agreed that an Israeli delegation would leave for South Sudan soon in order to check on how to assist the South Sudan people, who have suffered greatly in recent years, in developing their new country.”
During Kiir’s meeting with President Shimon Peres, the Israeli official noted that he played a role in establishing the link between Israel and the southern Sudanese local leaders in the 1960s in a meeting in Paris. He said Israel provided the southern Sudanese with “extensive assistance in agriculture and infrastructures,” according to a press statement from Peres’ office.
In addition to their past relations, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Kiir’s visit is “very important in the establishment of cooperation” in a variety of fields, from economics to energy, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
According to Israeli President’s Office statement, Kiir shared the interest in working together, emphasizing that his nation would like the cooperation to be expanded. “Both Israel and South Sudan champion coexistence and peace. We have shared values,” said Kiir. “We have waged similar struggles, and we will go hand-in-hand with Israel in order to strengthen and enhance bilateral strategic relations.”
The statement also quoted the South Sudan leader as saying that he is “very moved to be in Israel and to walk on the soil of the Promised Land.”
Said Kiir, “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.
“As a nation that rose from dust, and as the few who fought the many, you have established a flourishing country that offers a future and economic prosperity to its children. I have come to see your success.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastudpdate.com, December 20, 2011)