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Israel welcomes South Sudan independence

Filed on July 10, 2011

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that the Jewish state recognises South Sudan and wished the world’s newest nation ‘much success.’

‘Yesterday, a new state was born, South Sudan. I hereby announce that Israel recognises the Republic of South Sudan,’ he said. ‘We wish it much success.’

He called the new nation a ‘peace-seeking country’ and said Israel ‘would be pleased to cooperate with it in order to ensure its development and its prosperity.’

Netanyahu’s statement suggested the Jewish state would seek to establish diplomatic ties with the government in Juba. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Sudan, and has accused Khartoum of serving as a base for militants from the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

In April, Khartoum accused Israel of carrying out an air strike on its Red Sea coast that killed two people and destroyed the car they were travelling in.

Israel refused to comment on the incident, but its officials have expressed concern about arms smuggling through Sudan, and the attack mirrored a similar strike by foreign aircraft on a truck convoy reportedly laden with weapons in eastern Sudan in January 2009.

Israel’s ties with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the rebel movement that won South Sudan’s independence, have reportedly been much friendlier.

The Jewish state was widely reported to have provided arms to the SPLA in the 22-year civil war it fought with Khartoum, although neither side publicly acknowledged weapons transfers.

South Sudan’s independence came exactly six months after southerners voted almost unanimously to split with their former civil war enemies in the north.

For decades, until a peace agreement was signed in 2005, southern rebels fought successive wars with the north, leaving the region in ruins, millions of people dead and a legacy of mutual mistrust.

The new state faces massive challenges, and IsrAID, a coalition of Israeli and Jewish NGOs, said Sunday that it was immediately dispatching humanitarian aid to South Sudan ‘on behalf of the Israeli and Jewish people as a goodwill gesture between both communities.’

Israel is home to thousands of Sudanese refugees, including hundreds from South Sudan, and the country’s independence was greeted on Sunday with celebration parties in Tel Aviv, home to much of Israel’s Sudanese community.

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