Israel-Togo meeting delayed after bodyguards fight
A PHYSICAL altercation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bodyguards, and those of Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe, delayed a meeting between the two leaders at the Economic Community of West African (Ecowas) Summit in Monrovia, Liberia, on Sunday.
The punch-up and shoving match started after Netanyahu’s security personnel refused to allow the Togolese security detail to enter where the two men were meeting, according to Israeli diplomatic reporters.
Israel’s Channel 10 reporter Moav Vardi said Gnassingbe arrived at the meeting with his bodyguards, but they were stopped at the door to the meeting room by Netanyahu’s security detail as the Israelis reportedly demanded that the Togo security personnel provide identification.
Seeing his bodyguards prevented from entering, Gnassingbe reportedly turned around and walked straight out again, effectively cancelling the meeting.
In addition to the proposed meeting with Gnassingbe, Netanyahu also met several other west African leaders on Sunday.
Prior to leaving for Liberia, Netanyahu had said he would use his trip to the Ecowas summit to garner support for Israel at the UN and other international forums.
“The purpose of this trip is to dissolve this majority, this giant bloc of 54 African countries that is the basis of the automatic majority against Israel in the UN and international bodies,” he said on Saturday evening ahead of the flight.
Netanyahu said he hoped to use his attendance at Ecowas’s annual conference to build on his visit last July to the east African nations of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia, which marked the first time in decades an Israeli premier had travelled to Africa.
“Israel is returning to Africa in a big way,” the prime minister said on Saturday, reiterating a message he repeated throughout his previous trip to the continent.
Netanyahu said that the trip marked the first time a non-African leader would speak at Ecowas – an organisation that includes 15 nations with a combined population of some 320 million – which he called a “badge of honour for the state of Israel”.
A meeting between the Israeli premier and Senegalese President Macky Sall on the margins of the Ecowas summit on Sunday led to the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries after they were suspended following Senegal sponsoring a UN Security Council resolution last December condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. ANA
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, centre, attends a regional Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) summit at the Roberts International Airport in Liberia on Sunday.