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In Chad, Netanyahu meets President Déby

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Chad, Sunday morning, for a visit of about seven hours, during which he and Chadian President Idriss Déby should announce the resumption of bilateral ties.

After arriving in the country, Netanyahu was welcomed by Chadian Foreign Minister Mahamat Zene, the country's second highest official, told The Times of Israel a local source.

In the presidential palace of N & # 39; Djamena, the capital of the country, Netanyahu met the Chadian President Idriss Déby for a personal interview, with another scheduled with the expanded staff.

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It is expected that he and Déby will issue a formal declaration on the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, which were terminated 47 years ago.

If Chad formally resumed ties with Israel, the number of countries that have diplomatic ties to the Jewish state would reach a record 160, part of an intense Netanyahu initiative to expand the diplomatic reach of Israel. In November, Déby made a surprise visit to Israel, during which he said he was interested in restoring complete diplomatic ties.

Before taking off, the Prime Minister defined the visit as "a historic turning point".

"Chad is a huge Muslim country that borders on Libya and Sudan, part of the revolution we are doing in the Arab and Muslim world," he said from the asphalt.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to journalists from the Ben Gurion airport on January 20, 2019. (Raphael Ahren / Times of Israel)

Netanyahu said that Iran and the Palestinians were trying to prevent the diplomatic push of Israel.

"It's very disturbing, even very distressed [them], "He said.

The last country to renew diplomatic relations with Israel was Nicaragua, in March 2017. The Central American country had interrupted diplomatic relations seven years earlier, as a sign of protest over an incident during which violent pro-Palestinian activists and Israeli troops clashed aboard Gaza Nave Mavi Marmara

At that time, Netanyahu did not fly to Nicaragua for a ceremony.

At N & # 39; Djamena, Netanyahu is widely expected to increase defense agreements and other trade ties with Chad. To this end, he is flanked by senior officials from the defense and finance ministries, according to the Israeli broadcaster Kan.

After issuing a statement to the press, Netanyahu should leave for Israel around 3:00 pm.

Chad is in a potentially strategic place for Israel, as it could allow Israeli aircraft to disembark for several hours on flight routes to Latin America (although to do so, Israel would also need to obtain overflight from Sudan, which does not appear imminent).

Netanyahu's flight, which must beat Sudan, is expected to last eight hours, despite N & # 39; Djamena being only 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) from Tel Aviv.

The Republic of Chad cut off diplomatic ties with Jerusalem on November 28, 1972, at the behest of Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi.

Almost 15 million people live in Chad, 55% Muslim. About 40% are Christians.

The leaders of Israel and Chad recognized that illegal contacts continued even after the reports were interrupted.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Idriss Deby of Chad meet at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on November 25, 2018. (GPO)

"Relations between our countries were cut in 1972 for specific historical reasons, but our special relations continued all the time," Déby, who has governed Chad since 1990, said in December in December.

"The resumption of diplomatic relations with your country, which I wish, does not ignore the Palestinian question," he continued. "My country is deeply attached to the peace process and has shaped the Arab peace initiative, the Madrid principles and the existing agreements".

At an event in President Reuven Rivlin's Jerusalem residence, Déby said that Israel is "an important partner" for Chad.

"Of course, peace has not yet arrived in the region, peace is what every people needs to live a good life … I want to tell you that diplomatic relations with Israel would not make the Palestinians disappear." This is a critical problem that must be addressed, "he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lays a wreath at the Rwandan genocide memorial in Kigali on Wednesday 6 July 2016 (Raphael Ahren / Times of Israel)

Netanyahu has traveled to Africa three times in the last two years, visiting Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda and Liberia.

It regularly promises to expand ties with all the countries of the continent, including those that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

In July 2016, the Republic of Guinea, a small country with an overwhelming Muslim majority in West Africa, renewed diplomatic relations with Israel, after having severed ties with the Jewish state in 1967.

Since then, Netanyahu has met leaders of other Muslim-majority states like Mali and Somalia.

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