Chad president to make first Israel visit on Sunday, focus on security

Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno arrives to attend a visit and a dinner at the Orsay Museum on the eve of the commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of the First World War, in Paris, France, November 10, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Chadian President Idriss Deby will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday, the first such visit by a leader of the central African nation which severed bilateral ties in 1972, Netanyahu's office said.

Two N'Djamena government sources confirmed Deby's trip.

"The visit is focused on security," one source told Reuters, adding that Israel has supplied the Chadian army with weaponry and other equipment this year to help in its fight against northern rebels.

"This is the first visit of a Chad president in Israel since the establishment of the state (of Israel). It follows many diplomatic efforts led by Prime Minister Netanyahu in the last few years," the statement said.

The Netanyahu government has been investing in outreach to Africa, where some countries previously warm to Israel have kept their distance since its occupation of the Palestinian territories in the 1967 Middle East war.

In July 2016, Deby hosted the then-director of Israel's Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, for exploratory talks on improving bilateral relations. Gold told Israel Radio on Sunday that his Chadian hosts told him that they had cut off ties 44 years prior under Libyan pressure, a factor removed with the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.


(Reporting by Dan Williams and Maayan Lubell; Additional reporting by Madjiasra Nako in N'DJAMENA; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Raissa Kasolowsky)