Mauritania Expels Israeli Diplomats, Shuts Embassy

Mauritania Expels Israeli Diplomats, Shuts Embassy

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06/03/2009 Mauritania’s military junta expelled Israeli diplomats and shut the embassy on Friday after freezing ties with the Zionist entity over its invasion of Gaza.

Mauritania was one of only three Arab countries that had full diplomatic relations with Israel and the closure of the embassy in Nouakchott leaves just Egypt and Jordan.

Mauritania’s communications minister said the move was a result of a decision taken at a meeting of Arab leaders in Doha in mid-January following Israel’s invasion of Gaza. “We informed them of the decision to suspend relations at the time of the summit in Doha, and it is now being executed,” El Kory Ould Abdel Mola said. “The embassy is closed,” he declared.

Another Mauritanian official said Israeli diplomats had been given 48 hours to leave the northwest African country. Staff were seen leaving the building.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry official who declined to be identified said he could not confirm the expulsion and suggested the timing of the decision could be linked to a planned visit to Nouakchott by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. “Maybe they are just showing they’re tough,” the official said.

Gaddafi heads the African Union and is trying to mediate in the political crisis Mauritania has endured since the first democratically elected president was overthrown last August and General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz took over.

An official close to Mauritanian military ruler General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said the decision to expel the Israeli diplomats followed the decision in January to freeze relations with the state. “This is the logical consequence of the freezing of relations between Israel and Mauritania … there is nothing new,” said the official, who declined to be identified.

“This was expected. After General Aziz took the decision at the Doha summit, an envoy from the Mauritanian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the ambassador of Israel to leave the country,” the official said.

Abdel Aziz announced the decision to freeze relations at a summit of Arab nations in Doha, Qatar, in January. Qatar said at the time that it would freeze its own relations with Israel, which are at a lower level than full diplomatic ties. Most other Arab countries also froze Israel’s trade missions in their capitals after Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

Nouakchott, in common with other cities across the Arab world, saw protests against the Gaza attacks earlier this year.