Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday Israel's official recognition of South Sudan as an independent state.
"I announce here that Israel recognizes South Sudan," Netanyahu told his cabinet in broadcast remarks. "We wish it success. It is a peace-seeking country and we would be happy to cooperate with it in order to ensure its development and prosperity."
Interior Minister Eli Yishai called on Israel to immediately begin negotiations with South Sudan in order to return the thousands Sudanese refugees and migrant workers who had crossed into Israel illegally in the past several years.
The readiness to recognize South Sudan comes at the same time that Israel is conducting an international campaign to block the recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations General Assembly in September. Israel has argued that a Palestinian state must be established only as a result of negotiations and not by unilateral measures.
Sources at the Foreign Ministry said that contrary to a Palestinian state, South Sudan has declared its independence following negotiations and agreement, and thus Israel views positively the recognition of the new state.
In 2005 a peace agreement was signed between the government of Sudan and the interim government of South Sudan concluding a bloody civil war between Christians and Muslims. The decision to declare independence followed a plebiscite held in South Sudan in January.
Sudanese refugees celebrate South Sudan's independence at Tel Aviv party
On Saturday, South Sudanese celebrated the birth of their nation after voting for independence in a referendum under the terms of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of war.
The new state has its capital in Juba and was officially recognized on Friday by the government of Sudan, based in Khartoum, hours before the formal split took place.
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