South Sudan President Visits Israel for First Time

President Salva Kiir meets Peres, tours Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial ahead of talks with Netanyahu, Lieberman and Barak.

Israel hosted on Tuesday the leader of its newest ally in Africa, President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, which was recognized by Israel hours after it declared independence in July.

Israeli government officials declined to give details about the low-key, one-day visit, which political sources said was likely to focus on illegal African migration to Israel.


Kiir met President Shimon Peres and toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem ahead of talks later in the day with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

This month Israel approved a $167 million plan to try to stem the flow of African migrants who cross into the country through its porous border with Egypt. Government figures put the number of illegal workers in Israel at over 52,000.

Netanyahu said he would visit Africa early next year where among other issues he will discuss the repatriation of migrants. South Sudan is thought to be one of his possible destinations but details of the trip have not yet been released.

Many of the migrants come from Eritrea and Sudan and cross into Israel from Egypt's Sinai desert. Israel is building a fence along the porous frontier to try to block the migrants and prevent infiltration by Islamist militants.

South Sudan, where most people follow Christian and traditional African beliefs, declared independence on July 10 in line with a referendum that was the culmination of a 2005 peace deal ending decades of civil war with the north.

Israel has no relations with the mainly Arab Muslim north.