Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman heads to Africa

September 2, 2009

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman leaves on a diplomatic mission to Africa today, as he looks to take Israeli foreign policy in a new direction.

The trip marks the first time that an Israeli foreign minister has visited sub-Saharan Africa in more than 20 years.

Mr Lieberman and a delegation of 20 Israeli businesspeople will visit Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and Ghana during the week-long trip.

Africa has a strong presence in international forums, such as the UN, where it tends to exhibit pro-Arab sentiment.

Mr Lieberman said: “The visit to Africa is very important in reinforcing and improving Israel's standing in the international community and that it will contribute to advancing Israel's interests in international forums. The visit will also strengthen economic and business ties between the African states and Israel."

He also plans to raise the issue of Iran during his visit, as Iran has been trying to enlist support from African countries.

Mr Lieberman hopes to open up new paths in Israel's foreign policy. Last month he was the first Israeli foreign minister to visit South America in 22 years.

He said: "For many years, Israeli leaders were absent from entire regions around the world. During my visit to South America, I became convinced of the great importance host countries ascribe to these visits and of their considerable contribution to relations between states."

Last updated: 4:22pm, September 2 2009