Thursday, July 21, 2016

Israel and Guinea Renew Diplomatic Relations after 49 Years: Foreign Ministry Documents on the Breaking of Relations, 5 June 1967

Yesterday, 20 July 2016, the renewal of Israel's diplomatic relations with the West African state of Guinea was announced, 49 years after they were cut off. In the Foreign Ministry files at the Archives we have some interesting documents describing how Guinea severed its relations with Israel on 5 June 1967, the first day of the Six Day War.

Nahum Gershom, the ambassador in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, reported on 27 May to the African Division of the Foreign Ministry  during the "waiting period" of tension following Egypt's closing of the straits of Tiran, that President Ahmed Sékou Touré  had sent a letter of support to the Egyptian leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser. However the ambassador had managed to see the secretary-general of the foreign ministry and explained Israel's case to him, also giving him the document in French shown below, and there was much sympathy for Israel among the people.

Nevertheless Gershom was not surprised when, at 12:30 on 5 June, he was summoned to the Foreign Ministry and told that relations would be severed and all the Israeli representatives, including agricultural advisers, must leave at once. Gershom wrote that as soon as he heard that war had broken out, he assumed that this step would follow. Nasser had sent telegrams to all the African states friendly to Egypt, asking them to cut off relations with Israel, and the Guinea radio station had begun to broadcast military music. These events are described in another letter to the African Division. You can see Gershom's letters on our Hebrew blog.

Even before this Israel's relations with mainly Muslim Guinea were deteriorating, as the Guineans had adopted a strongly anti-Israel line including condemnations at the UN and international conferences, and anti-Israel publications in the local media.  Israel established diplomatic relations with Guinea in 195, immediately after it received independence from France. But relations with the new state were always problematic, due to the pro-Soviet line and dictatorial methods of its leader  Sékou Touré, one of the prominent leaders of the first generation of emerging African states.  

Ahmed Sekou Toure, Wikipedia

Guinea was the only African state to break off relations with Israel after the Six Day war. Burundi and Mali suspended their ties but did not break off relations. However most of the African states did so in 1972 and 1973. Many of them resumed relations with Israel in the 1980s after the peace treaty with Egypt. 

 .Nations Online Project, map of Guinea

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