6 June 2017

West Africa: Onyeama Denies Nigeria's Absence At Ecowas Summit Regional Body Agrees to Admit Morocco

Abuja — The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, has debunked reports that Nigeria was absent at the 51st Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Monrovia, Liberia.

Nigeria was alleged to be absent at the meeting which kicked off on June 3 in Liberia.

But Onyeam, while reacting to questions from journalists in Abuja yesterday, said the country was adequately represented at the summit even though he did not mention the name of the representative of Nigeria at the meeting.

When probed further on the absence of the country at such crucial meeting, the minister insisted: "Nigeria was represented, Nigeria was adequately represented at the summit."

The summit had in attendance, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Among the dignitaries at the meeting was former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

It was not certain if Obasanjo attended the summit on behalf of the federal government or his capacity as an elder statesman in the West African region.

Speaking at the summit, Netanyahu urged African leaders to partner his country to build the continent's capacity.

"I come here as an instruction of the simple truth, Israel is coming to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel. I believe in Africa, I believe in its potential, present and future.

"I believe in Africa. I believe in its potential, present and future. It is a continent on the rise. Israel has the solutions for many African challenges," he said.

This trip comes nearly a year after Netanyahu was in East Africa as part of his efforts to strengthen ties between the continent and Israel.

Meanwhile, ECOWAS has in principle approved Morocco's membership application despite the country being in North Africa.

But ECOWAS leaders meeting in Liberia said the implications of its membership still needed to be considered before Morocco could formally join.

King Mohammed VI was not at the summit because Netanyahu had been invited.

Morocco's application comes after it rejoined the African Union in January.

Morocco left the continental body in 1984 after it recognised the independence of Western Sahara.

Morocco regards Western Sahara as part of its historic territory and has spent much of the last three decades trying to strengthen ties with Europe at the expense of relations with Africa.

Ivory Coast President Alasanne Ouattara has confirmed that the decision had been agreed in principle but the details still had to be worked out.

Morocco, along with Tunisia which is seeking observer status with the organisation and Mauritania, which wants to return to the body, will be invited to the next meeting of heads of state in Togo in December, a senior ECOWAS source told the BBC.

ECOWAS is made up of 15 West African nations, none of which shares a border with Morocco.

Members enjoy free trade and movement of people.

King Mohammed VI last week announced he would not be attending the summit in Liberia, because of the presence of Israel's prime minister.

Morocco does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

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