South Sudan will have relations with Israel-official

Fri Jul 15, 2011 6:59pm GMT
 

CAIRO, July 15 (Reuters) - South Sudan, already recognised by Israel, will forge relations with the Jewish state and hopes to help bring peace to the Middle East, the new state's vice president said in remarks received on Friday.

Riek Machar, speaking to Alhurra television after the UN General Assembly in New York admitted South Sudan to the United Nations on Thursday, said that most of his country's neighbours had diplomatic relations with Israel.

"Therefore we will have relations with all the Arab and Muslim countries and even with Israel..." Machar said in Arabic, according to a transcript in English sent to Reuters on Friday.

"As a matter of fact, we look forward to playing a role in solving the existing issues in the Arab world, even the issues between Israel and the Arab countries."

"We fully understand the issues in the Arab world, particularly the Palestinian issue and the right to have a Palestinian state," he added.

South Sudan, most of whose people follow Christian and traditional African beliefs, became independent on Saturday in line with a January referendum that was the culmination of a 2005 peace deal ending decades of civil war with the north.

Israel recognised South Sudan on Sunday, offering the new state economic help after it seceded from the mainly Arab and Muslim north -- which has no relations with the Jewish state.

Machar said Israel's recognition of South Sudan followed Juba's recognition by Arab countries including north Sudan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

"We need international peace. We will have relations with all Arab countries. Israel initiated relations with us. This is not a strange development," he added. (Writing by Sami Aboudi, editing by Tim Pearce)

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