West News Wire: On his trip to Africa in March, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly urged the president of Niger to normalise relations with Israel. In response to Israeli military activity in the Palestinian territories, the two nations formally break their ties in 2002.
Blinken pushed Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum to “move towards normalising relations” with Israel during their talks last month, according to a story published on Wednesday by Axios, which cited two US and Israeli officials.
According to the sources, Blinken later briefed Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen about the talks, noting that Cohen suggested inviting Niger to the following Negev Forum, an annual gathering of the US, Israel, and Arab nations including Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco.
Multiple unnamed Israeli officials also said Niger’s leadership is open to “warming ties with Israel,” but claimed they hoped for “deliverables” in return from Washington.
Niger is a significant US security partner in the Sahel, an area of Africa south of the Sahara Desert, even though Blinken is the first US secretary of state to visit the nation since it earned independence from France in 1960.
Niger is now the “largest recipient of State Department military assistance in West Africa,” according to a department fact sheet, after Washington invested $110 million to build a significant drone base there in the nation in 2016. Since then, Washington has continued to pour large sums of security and humanitarian aid into the country. Throughout the War on Terror, US forces have operated in Niger on and off. In 2013, they were stationed there as part of a comprehensive “status of forces” agreement.
During his visit, Blinken announced a $150 million aid package for Sahel nations, including Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso, bringing total US assistance to the region to $233 million in 2023.
Israel and Niger have historically had tense relations. Following the Oslo Accords of 1996, relations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation improved after the two sides severed ties in 1973. However, after a spike in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in 2002, communications were once more broken. Since since, they have maintained no official diplomatic connections.
Under the Abraham Accords, which were mediated by the US, Israel has recently normalised relations with a number of Arab or Muslim-majority states, including Bahrain, the UAE, Sudan, and Morocco. Some nations in the region, like Oman, have stated they won’t be ready to reestablish ties until Israel and the Palestinians come to an agreement on a two-state solution, which seems unlikely in the near future given how violent the occupied territories remain.