After a dispute over the expulsion of one of its top ambassadors, the African Union announced on Sunday that Israel’s observer status at the bloc had been revoked and that it had not been invited to its weekend summit.
An indignant Israel claimed that Iran, its arch-enemy, had orchestrated the diplomat’s removal from Saturday’s opening day of the AU conference with the aid of Algeria and South Africa.
The episode brought to light a dispute within the pan-African bloc over Moussa Faki Mahamat’s plan to grant Israel observer membership in the AU Commission in 2021.
Strong member states, especially Pretoria, reacted angrily to the move.
A discussion about whether to revoke the accreditation was put on hold at the AU summit last year, and a committee of heads of state was formed to handle the problem.
“That means that the status is suspended until such time as this committee can deliberate… and so we did not invite Israeli officials to our summit,” Faki told reporters on Sunday, adding that an investigation was being conducted.
Video circulating on social media showed guards escorting the Israeli foreign ministry’s deputy director general for Africa, Sharon Bar-li, out of the AU assembly hall in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
A spokesman for the ministry had said Bar-li was “an accredited observer with an entry tag”, accusing the AU of being taken hostage by a “small number of extremist states like Algeria and South Africa, which are driven by hatred and controlled by Iran”.