President Lazarus Chakwera has said he will stick to his plans to open a Malawi diplomatic office in Jerusalem, Israel and that “it is never intended to have Malawi isolated.”
Chakwera said Malawi is a sovereign state with its own foreign policy and there should be no question on the country’s decision including on who to associate with.
He was responding to questions in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator for Zomba Chisi, Mark Botomani asked President Chakwera on his administration’s foreign policy in relation to his decision to establish a Malawi diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, Israel.
“I wish to state that the Republic Malawi conduct its foreign policy for the primary benefit of this nation and its citizens,” said Chakwera.
The President said Israel is among Malawi’s “strong partners” and the relationship has been there since independence in 1964.
He said: “Our bid to reenergising existing relationship with Israel and establish residential diplomatic missions should not be regarded as something new in our foreign policy.“
Chakwera added: “Israel is a great nation and a leader in many fields of human endeavours, including science and technology, agriculture, education and human development. These are attributes which Malawi wants to learn from and improve Malawi’s prospects as a nation.
“Our commitment to improve the relationship is therefore grounded in our own national interests.”
Chakwera said Israel is a great nation and global leader in economic transformation which Malawi wants to tap benefits from the country.
MP Botomani in a follow up question drew the President’s attention to an unresolved conflict between Israel and Palestine over east Jerusalem. Due to the conflict, many countries in diplomatic relations with Israel have not recognised Jerusalem as the capital and instead establish their missions in Tel Aviv.
“Why has the Malawi government specifically decided to have its embassy in Jerusalem when there all these contentious issues,” the MP asked Chakwera.
In another follow up question, DPP’s Mulanje South West MP Dr George Chaponda said: “We live in a global village and what we do impacts on others.”
Chaponda, a former foreign affairs minister, said Malawi during one party state, dictator Kamuzu Banda “took an independent position of honeymooning with apartheid South Africa and decided not to follow what frontline states were parachuting.” He asked if the position to open Malawi mission in Jerusalem will lead to Malawi being treated as a pariah state.
“My worry is that we live in a global village and what we do impacts on us. During the one-party State, the late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda took an independent position of honeymooning with apartheid South Africa and decided not to follow what the Front Line States were pursuing.
“As a former minister of Foreign Affairs, when we go to forums such as Sadc and so on, Malawi is treated like a pariah. By taking the position which you have said, by siding with Israel, recognising Jerusalem, are you taking into account the facts that this nation could be isolated by others?”
President Chakwera, an Evangelical who was inaugurated as Malawi leader on July 6, said the southern African nation will not be isolated.
“Decision as who we associate with are matters of national interest and sovereign realms of the states.
“We should never conduct our foreign policy at the behest of pressure from anybody. We should conduct our diplomacy on the basis of mutual respect,” said Chakwera.
The Malawi leader said his recent State visits to Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia demonstrated that the country is enjoying better relations and has a good standing within the region.
President Chakwera said: “Time is now ripe for Malawi to take its rightful role in international relations, demonstrate and share our experience with all UN member states.”
He added: “We will take decision that are good for Malawi not what others think about us.”
Chakwera, 65, holds a PhD in theology and has long been supportive of the Jewish state, which he last visited last year.
So far, Malawi — a mostly Christian country with about 18 million inhabitants — has no embassy in Israel. Israel’s non-resident ambassador to Malawi, Oded Joseph, is based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Malawi would be the first African country to establish a diplomatic office in Jerusalem.
So far, only the US and Guatemala operate full-fledged embassies in Jerusalem.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :