Malawi will become the first African country to follow the US example and open a full embassy to Israel in the disputed city of Jerusalem, their foreign ministers announced on Tuesday.
During a visit to Israel, Malawi Foreign Minister Eisenhower Mkaka called the decision a “bold and significant step”.
He congratulated Israel on its blooming new relations with Arab and Muslim states under US-brokered deals, including new ties with fellow African country Sudan.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told reporters, “I would like to congratulate the Malawian government on the important decision to be the pioneer, and the first African country to establish its embassy in Jerusalem. I’m sure that more African leaders will follow this decision.”
Malawi has had diplomatic ties with the Jewish state since 1964 but has never opened an embassy.
President Donald Trump broke with diplomatic tradition in 2017 by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there, enraging the Palestinians and angering many world leaders.
Israel considers the city its eternal capital, but Palestinians want east Jerusalem, seized by Israel in a 1967 Middle East war, as capital of a future Palestinian state.
Given the city’s disputed status, most countries with embassies in Israel have them in its commercial capital Tel Aviv.
Guatemala moved its embassy to Jerusalem soon after the US, and Honduras has said it aims to do the same by the end of 2020. Brazil and the Dominican Republican are also considering the move.
The Malawian embassy is expected to open by the summer of 2021, the Israeli foreign ministry said.