A senior Israeli diplomat was been removed from the African Union’s annual summit in Ethiopia over Israel’s accreditation to the bloc as observer member escalates.
A video posted on social media showed security personnel walking Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li out of the auditorium during the opening ceremony of the summit in Addis Ababa on Saturday.
Ebba Kalondo, the spokesperson for the African Union’s chairman, said the diplomat was removed because she was not the duly accredited Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia expected to attend.
According to AU spokesperson, the diplomat who was “asked to leave” had not been invited to the meeting, as an invitation was issued to Israel’s ambassador to the African Union is non-transferable. “It is regrettable that the individual in question would abuse such a courtesy,” the official added.
The move was swiftly condemned by Israel. “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,” the Israeli foreign ministry said.
Israel blamed the incident on South Africa and Algeria, two key nations in the 55-country bloc, saying they were holding the AU hostage and were driven by “hate”.
Israel’s foreign ministry said the charge d’affaires at South Africa’s embassy would be summoned for a reprimand.
South Africa rejected the claim, saying Israel’s application for observer status at the AU has not been decided upon by the bloc.
“Until the AU takes a decision on whether to grant Israel observer status, you cannot have the country sitting and observing,” Clayson Monyela, head of public diplomacy in South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation, told Reuters news agency.