Malawi says it will open an embassy in Jerusalem, the controversial capital of Israel, in the summer of 2021. This was made known by the country’s foreign minister, Eisenhower Mkaka, who is on a three-day trip to the Jewish state.
“Mkaka reiterated the intent of the Republic of Malawi to open a fully-fledged Embassy in Jerusalem,” according to an official joint statement signed by the visiting Malawian minister and his counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi. In return, the statement added, Israel agreed to increase bilateral cooperation in the fields of agriculture, tourism, investment technology, education and trade.
Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera first announced his intention to open an embassy in Jerusalem in September. The move, if seen through, will make Malawi the first African country to currently have a diplomatic mission in the new Jewish capital. A number of African countries, including Kenya, Ivory Coast, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, once had embassies in Jerusalem, but they were closed following the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Chakwera, an Evangelical, said his country was undertaking several diplomatic reforms, including the upgrading of the country’s Foreign Ministries and its embassies worldwide.
“The reforms will also include a review of our diplomatic presence, including our resolve to have new diplomatic missions in Lagos, Nigeria and Jerusalem, Israel,” he said, according to the Times of Israel. “I will be sharing more details about this in the near future.”
Chakwera’s decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem has incurred the wrath of the Palestinian authorities. Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, on Wednesday sent a letter of protest through a special envoy to the Malawian leader over the embassy move, according to Anadolu Agency.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem, seized in a 1967 Middle East war, as part of a future state while Israel considers the Holy City its eternal capital.
“Any step taken to establish a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem constitutes a violation of relevant United Nations resolutions,” the special envoy, Hanan Jarrar said. According to him, the UN Security Council Resolution 476 (1980) recently reaffirmed by Resolution 2334 (2016) does not recognize any action that seeks to alter the character and status of Jerusalem.
“Under international law, East Jerusalem [including the Old City and its holy sites] are not legally part of Israel,” he said, adding that: “Since Israel’s establishment in 1948, the US and the international community have refused to recognize the sovereignty of any country to any part of Jerusalem in the absence of a permanent Arab-Israeli peace agreement.”
Also, the country’s opposition MPs have criticized the move but Chakwera insists establishing diplomatic ties with Israel was nothing new in Malawi. Currently, the 21-million majority Christian nation has no diplomatic mission in Israel. Meanwhile, Israel’s non-resident ambassador to Malawi is resident in Nairobi, Kenya.
Another African country that has given a hint of opening an embassy in Jerusalem is Uganda. In February, President Yoweri Museveni told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would look into the possibility of opening an embassy in Jerusalem.
This was after Netanyahu suggested that Israel would open an embassy in Kampala if Uganda were to open an embassy in Jerusalem.
U.S. President Donald Trump in 2017 became the first world leader to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocated the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv there. Since then, Israel has taken steps to normalize relations with Muslim nations across the world.