The Israeli Embassy in Nigeria is establishing an economic platform, as part of efforts to deepen bilateral relations between the two countries.
The platform will enable Nigerian and Israeli businessmen to meet and explore investment opportunities in both countries.
This was disclosed yesterday by the new Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Uriel Palti, during a courtesy visit to the headquarters of The Sun Publishing Limited.
He said arrangement for an economic summit in Nigeria was already in the pipeline. The summit, according to him, will enable Israeli businessmen to appreciate Nigeria’s economy.
While noting that there is still much to do between Nigeria and Israel, in order to have balance trade exchange, Uriel said: “We want to convince Israeli businessmen and show them the potentials that abound in Nigeria’s economy.”
He stressed the importance of the Nigerian-Israeli Chamber of Commerce in increasing business ties between the two countries.
The envoy said his plan of action would concentrate on areas he described as crucial to the overall development of Nigeria. They include agriculture, irrigation, education and fight against international terrorism.
He was however, quick to say Nigeria, as a great country, with great potentials, does not need external assistance to survive.
“Even as we talk now, there is a suggestion for us to increase the number of our consulates in Nigeria because we have a report that says by 2015, the population of Nigeria will explode,” he said.
Uriel said the common experience of both countries has made government and people of Israel to have great feelings for Nigeria. He was particular about the activities of insurgents.
“We fight Hezbollah, HAMAS and here in Nigeria you’re fighting Boko Haram,” he said.
Responding to a question on how many Nigerians are resident in Israel, the envoy said the number could not be ascertained, as there was no accurate data.
“I can tell you that Nigeria has 30, 000 pilgrims, but generally, there has been decrease in the number of African migrants to Israel as against 10 years ago,” he said.
The envoy used the occasion of the visit to explain the position of hopes and aspiration of Israel in the context of Middle East crisis, particularly its relations with Syria, Turkey and Palestine.
On Syria, he expressed the hope that peace could return, even as he said it was a big question.
He drew attention to the existing mutual relationship existing between Israel and Egypt after fighting six consecutive wars.
“No one believed 40 years ago that there would be direct flight between Israel and Egypt. Now, we have exchange of ambassadors. It is the same cordial atmosphere that now exists between Israel and Jordan. We were close to signing agreement with Syria in 1999 but that was with the father of the current president. It was at the draft level when the efforts collapsed,” he said.
He described the situation between Israel and Turkey as complex, even as he acknowledges the recent settlement between the two countries. He however, did not hesitate to finger Iran as an architect of the animosity against Israel.
On the Palestine question, Uriel was emphatic when he said Israel was willing to make sacrifice and accept the framework of “two states, two people.”
He was full of optimism that the current efforts for peace by the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, will yield the desired result and finally bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians.
The envoy, who presented his Letters of Credence to President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, arrived in Nigeria three and a half months ago. His wife, Mrs Ayelet Palti and the Embassy’s Press Officer, Mr Tony Obiechina, accompanied him.
Earlier, the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Sun Publishing Limited, Mr Tony Onyima, had commended the existing cordial relations between the company and the Israeli Embassy in Nigeria.
He expressed hope that the ties will be further strengthened during the tenure of Uriel.
Media & Political Officer
Embassy of Israel, Abuja-Nigeria