Big boost in global standing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 April, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 April, 1996, 12:00am

Dismantling economic and trade barriers with other countries, particularly in the Arab world, has been a long process but Israel continues to work on improving its standing globally.

Israel maintains diplomatic relations with 155 states, an increase of 62 since the convening of the Madrid Conference in 1991.

Of special significance has been the development of relations with the two great Asian powers - China and India - which promises tremendous strategic and economic potential, according to Israel's Foreign Ministry.

Changes in the entire Euro-Asian sphere are also noteworthy. In the huge territory extending from former east Germany to Vladivostok in the east and India in the south, there were only two Israeli embassies at the beginning of 1991 - in Romania and Nepal - and a consulate in Bombay.

There are now Israeli diplomatic missions in all but five countries in Asia - North Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

A breakthrough has also been achieved in Israel's relations with non-Arab Muslim countries. Diplomatic ties have been established with nine states - Albania, Gambia, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. There has also been a marked improvement in relations with Turkey.

In 1993, Israel signed an agreement with the centre of the Catholic world, the Vatican, following decades of total refusal on the part of the church to establish diplomatic relations for both theological and political reasons.

Continuing to forge ties has helped conclude an agreement improving the terms of Israel's free trade agreement with the European Union.

In Africa, Israel has ties with 32 of the 43 states south of the Sahara which are not members of the Arab League. Of these, relations have been renewed with 23 since 1991. Israel maintains contacts with the 11 states which have not yet renewed diplomatic relations.

Renewing diplomatic dialogue also led to an improvement in Israel's status in international organisations, reflected in a decline in the number of debates and resolutions pertaining to Israel and the Middle East. More Israelis are being elected to senior positions in the United Nations.

The primary change in Israel's international standing is clear from growing relations with the Arab world.

In addition to full diplomatic relations with two of its neighbours - Egypt and now Jordan - an Israeli liaison office has been opened in Morocco and another office is to be opened in Tunisia.

The convening of multilateral working groups in countries such as Tunisia, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain has made Israeli visits to these states commonplace.

The peace process, as it has evolved since the Madrid Conference, has provided the stimulus for economic momentum in both Middle Eastern and Israeli economies.

One of the first concrete expressions of the change was the public declaration by the Gulf States on October 1, 1994, to support a review of the Arab boycott of Israel, in effect abolishing the secondary and tertiary boycott against the country.