September 8, 2009 / 7:56 PM / in 8 years

Nigeria urges Israel to work harder on Mideast peace

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria’s foreign minister said on Tuesday Israel must do more to achieve peace in the Middle East if it wants improved diplomatic and business ties with Africa’s most populous country.

<p>Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman addresses a commencement ceremony at a local college in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel, August 23, 2009. REUTERS/Baz Ratner</p>

Ojo Maduekwe and his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, on a two-day visit to Nigeria’s capital Abuja, signed an economic agreement for both countries to work more closely on trade, agriculture and infrastructure development.

“We urge you to do a lot more for peace then you have done now,” Maduekwe said after a signing ceremony.

“If there is peace, we will sign more. If there is no peace, it will be difficult to sign more agreements.”

Maduekwe said Nigeria was “frustrated” with the violence in the Middle East and suggested Israel turn to African countries for help in resolving the crisis.

“Every solution has been tried except the African solution ... perhaps we can provide more traction in that process,” Maduekwe said.

Lieberman and an Israeli business delegation met with top Nigerian government officials, including Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, as part of a week-long Africa tour aimed at boosting business ties and drumming up diplomatic support in a continent where pro-Arab sentiment has long been strong.

Lieberman is expected to sign an international cooperation deal with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Wednesday in Abuja.

Nigeria’s trade relationship with Israel is mostly one-sided, with the West African country importing about $35.4 million worth of Israeli goods each year.

Israel buys little from Nigeria. But several Israeli companies, ranging from construction to information technology and water management, operate in the West African country.

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