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Bhutan normalises ties with Israel

Israel’s Ambassador to India Ron Malka showed both officials shaking hands in New Delhi [@DrRonMalka /Twitter]
Israel’s Ambassador to India Ron Malka showed both officials shaking hands in New Delhi [@DrRonMalka /Twitter]

The Himalayan state of Bhutan is the latest in a series of countries, including Sudan and Morocco, to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, it was announced on Saturday.

According to a joint statement reported by Al Jazeera, normalisation will "open the path to greater cooperation and further strengthen relations" between the two states.

Israel's Foreign Ministry welcomed the development. "The circle of recognition of Israel is widening… The establishment of relations with the Kingdom of Bhutan will constitute a new state in the deepening of Israel's relations in Asia." The ministry added that the agreement is the product of several years of secret contacts with the government in Thimphu.

READ: Algeria tells Morocco, 'Mutual recognition between occupiers is useless'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to Twitter to welcome the deal. He also claimed that he is in touch with several other states seeking to normalise relations with Israel.

The latest agreement was signed by the Israeli and Bhutanese ambassadors in India on Saturday. Photographs shared on Twitter by Israel's Ambassador to India Ron Malka showed both officials shaking hands in New Delhi. "This agreement will open up many more opportunities for cooperation for the benefit of both our peoples," he tweeted.

It is unclear if Israel will open an embassy in Bhutan, or if Malka will become a non-resident ambassador to the country.

Al Jazeera noted that the agreement includes plans to work jointly on a number of issues, including water management, agriculture and healthcare. "The ties between the peoples through culture exchanges and tourism will also be further enhanced," it added.

Bhutan is a remote Buddhist kingdom nestled in the mountains between China and India. The small state is notable for its "Gross National Happiness" which focuses on improving population wellbeing over GDP growth. With a population of less than a million people, it has long been culturally and political independent, and only has diplomatic relations with 53 countries. Notably, the Himalayan state does not have ties with any of the five permanent UN Security Council members, including the US, reported Agence France Presse (AFP).

Bhutan follows the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco in normalising ties with Israel since August. The four Arab states established ties with the self-styled Jewish state through a series of Washington-brokered deals, but the agreement between Bhutan and Israel apparently took place without US mediation.

READ: Oman welcomes Morocco, Israel normalisation

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