South Africa's government on Wednesday announced that it was "appalled" by the African Union (AU) Commission's decision last week to grant Israel observer status at the African bloc.
"Israel continues to illegally occupy Palestine in complete defiance of its international obligations and relevant United Nations resolutions," a statement issued by South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said.
"It is therefore incomprehensible that the AU Commission chooses to reward Israel at a time when its oppression of Palestinians has been demonstrably more brutal," DIRCO added.
The DIRCO statement continued: "South Africa firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions it should not have observer status in the African Union."
"The African Union cannot be a party in any way to plans and actions that would see the ideal of Palestinian statehood reduced into balkanised entities devoid of true sovereignty, without territorial contiguity and with no economic viability."
On Friday, Israel obtained AU observer status after 20 years of diplomatic efforts. The new status could enable Israel and the AU to forge stronger cooperation on various aspects, including the fight against the coronavirus and the prevention "of the spread of extremist terrorism" on the African continent.
The South African government asserted that the AU's decision: "Is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land."