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Netanyahu says to visit Chad soon to restore ties

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with Chadian President Idriss Deby as they deliver joint statements in Jerusalem November 25, 2018. – Chadian leader Idriss Deby Itno on November 25 became the first president of his country to visit Israel and pledged a new era of relations when meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decades after ties were severed. (Photo by RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he will travel to Chad soon to announce the reestablishment of diplomatic ties after a first-ever visit by the central African nation’s president.

Netanyahu held a second meeting with Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno on Tuesday before his departure. The two leaders held a first meeting after Deby’s arrival on Sunday and security issues were expected to be high on the agenda.

A statement from Netanyahu’s office said he will travel to Chad soon and make a joint announcement with Deby on the resumption of diplomatic relations after a decades-long rupture. It did not specify a date.

“The leaders discussed common threats and the fight against terrorism, as well as increasing bilateral cooperation” in areas including agriculture, counter-terrorism, technology, solar energy, water and health, the statement said.

Both leaders called the visit “historic” as they met in Jerusalem on Sunday, with Netanyahu’s office describing the trip by the leader of the Muslim-majority nation as the result of hard-won diplomatic efforts.

The two leaders have declined to comment on whether their talks have included arms deals.

Chadian security sources say the country has acquired Israeli equipment to help battle rebels in the country’s north.

Chad is also one of several African states engaged in Western-backed operations against Boko Haram and Islamic State group jihadists.

Pressure from Muslim African nations, accentuated by the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, led a number of African states to sever relations with the Jewish state.

But in recent years, Israel has held out the prospect of cooperation in fields ranging from security to technology to agriculture, to improve ties on the continent.

Diplomatic relations between Israel and Chad, a country of some 15 million people, were severed in 1972.

Deby is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.

He took over the arid, impoverished nation in 1990 and won a disputed fifth term in April 2016.

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