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South Sudan describes relations with Israel as historical, seeks technical assistance

May 14,2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan on Monday described ties with Israel as “strong and historical” and that it was for two states to embrace and promote economic and diplomatic cooperation, particularly technical assistance in agriculture development and water conservation mechanisms.

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Betty Achan Ogwaro, South Sudan’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Cooperatives and Rural Development toured on Monday 14 May some agricultural sites in Israel (Photo Lomayat)

The government made the pronouncement in release revealing the visit of South Sudan’s minister of agriculture and forestry, Betty Achan Ogwaro, to Israel, to discuss on how the two countries can cooperate and exchange experience and skills, particularly as Israel has managed to farm dry areas of the Jewish state.

“The visit of the minister is very important for two reasons: firstly Israel has historical relations with the people of South Sudan and secondly Israel has a lot of experiences in water management which is an indication of the government commitment to the food self-sufficiency drive”, deputy minister, Beda Machar Deng, told Sudan Tribune on Monday.

Deng explained that South Sudan wanted to learn from Israel’s irrigation systems. Only a tiny amount of South Sudan’s land is farmed despite the country having much fertile land.

The deputy minister said Israel’s ties with South Sudan began in the 1960s when Israeli envoys met with South Sudanese leaders and an extensive aid program was drawn up in the spheres of agriculture and infrastructure development. The Israeli government found ways to assist the regional government, mainly through Mashav, the international cooperation division of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and non-governmental organisations.

In 2008, the American Jewish Committee’s Africa Institute visited South Sudan to study how Israel could assist in preparation for South Sudanese independence. Through the Africa Institute, contact was made between senior members of the South Sudanese leadership and officials in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Deng said that South Sudan wants to foster security cooperation and economic ties with Israel. South Sudan also has access to oil and other natural resources that may be beneficial to Israel.

Israel recognised South Sudan’s independence the day after secession on 9 July, during a weekly cabinet meeting. Israel has never had official diplomatic relations with Sudan.

On July 28, after an Israeli delegation visited the South Sudanese capital of Juba the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that Israel would establish full diplomatic relations with South Sudan. In Juba on Wednesday 9 May 2012, Israeli Ambassador to South Sudan, Haim Koren was accredited and met with President Salva Kiir.

In August 2011, South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, told a visiting Israeli delegation that included MK Danny Danon, that Sudan planned to establish its Embassy in Jerusalem rather than Tel Aviv.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayaardit visited Israel in January. Deng said that Kiir’s meetings with senior Israeli officials and other officials were "successful."