JERUSALEM - Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has invited Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Tunisia in November and he plans to accept the unprecedented invitation, Israeli officials said Friday.
The invitation was the latest sign of warming ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors following the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in November. Earlier this month, Israel and the Palestinians declared a cease-fire, and Jordan and Egypt agreed to return their ambassadors to Israel, after withdrawing them following the outbreak of violence in September 2000.
Ben Ali has invited Sharon to attend an information technology convention in his country, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said. A Sharon trip to Tunisia would mark the first visit by an Israeli leader to that Arab nation, which was the longtime home of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Israel and Tunisia had lower-level diplomatic offices in the other's country before the hostilities erupted. Now that Egypt and Jordan are returning their ambassadors, Israel hopes that other Arab nations that had offices in Israel before the violence would reopen them.