Washington — The president of the newly established state of South Sudan told a visiting Israeli delegation that their future embassy in the Jewish state will be built in the disputed city of Jerusalem rather than in the political capital of Tel Aviv, according to a newspaper report.
Danny Danon, Israeli member of Likud Party and Parliament member, is currently on a visit to South Sudan capital of Juba where he met with president Salva Kiir.
The 'Jerusalem Post' newspaper quoted Kiir as telling the visiting delegation that his country resisted Arab and Palestinian pressure on relations with Israel.
"I told them that I see Israeli embassies in Jordan and Egypt, and South Sudan is not an Arab state," Kiir reportedly told Danon.
South Sudan became an independent state last month after its citizens voted overwhelmingly in favor of separation from the Arab-Muslim dominated north.
Many Sudanese and Arabs see Israel as complicit in breaking up Sudan and supporting the separatist rebel movements that emerged in South Sudan since Sudan became independent in 1956.
Israel quickly recognized South Sudan and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Kiir in July promising his country's assistance in areas of infrastructure, communications and agriculture.
Danon renewed this offer in his talks with South Sudan officials including Industry and Trade Minister, Foreign Minister and Finance Minister.
The Israeli MP specifically discussed ways South Sudan can work with Israel, pointing out that the new state has oil, gold, silver, lead, copper and other resources.
"Israel's technological wealth and South Sudan's wealth of natural resources are a sure recipe for prosperity in both states," Danon said.
South Sudan president also agreed to Danon's request that the future South Sudanese embassy in Israel be built in Jerusalem and also pledged to pay a visit to Israel at an unspecified date.
The status of Jerusalem - a city holy to three religions - is a sensitive issue for Israel as well as Arab and Muslim states.
Israel considers the city to be its "eternal and indivisible" capital city while Palestinians want the eastern part of Jerusalem to serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.
Even the United States, Israel's staunchest ally, has been careful not to aggravate the Arab and Muslim states by avoiding making any official sign that it recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.
The U.S. Congress passed a law in 1995 describing Jerusalem as capital of Israel and saying it should not be divided, but successive presidents have used their foreign policy powers to maintain the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv and to back negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the status of Jerusalem.
U.S. diplomats say that, despite the U.S. legislation, Washington's foreign policy is in practice broadly aligned with that of the United Nations and other major powers, which do not view Jerusalem as Israel's capital and do not recognise Israel's annexation of Arab East Jerusalem following the 1967 war.
Kiir's position contrasts sharply with South Sudan's pledge a few weeks ago that it will support Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations next month. The move is strongly opposed by Israel.
Israel is home to thousands of Sudanese refugees, including hundreds from South Sudan, and the country's independence was greeted with celebration parties in Tel Aviv, home to much of Israel's Sudanese community.
Danon noted the presence of Southern Sudanese in Israel and suggested that Tel Aviv will help in repatriating them.
"The Sudanese people have undergone ups and downs, but its luck has improved with the establishment of a new, civilized state," Danon said.
"The world must help rehabilitate the Sudanese people and support the refugees who left families and homes behind by helping them return safely to their new state."
Kiir on his end asked Danon to promote vocational training for Sudanese refugees in Israel, so they could successfully return to their homeland.
On Tuesday, Danon plans to meet with former refugees who returned to South Sudan after working in Israel.
Danon said he intends to discuss with them ways to streamline the process of sending refugees from Israel after vocational training.