Israel establishes diplomatic relations with Bhutan: Foreign Ministry

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Jerusalem (AFP)

Israel has established diplomatic relations with the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, the Jewish state’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.

“Israel’s circle of recognition is widening,” Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a statement.

“Establishing relations with the Kingdom of Bhutan will be a further step in the deepening of Israel’s relations in Asia. ”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the agreement, saying in a statement that Israel was “in contact with other countries that want to establish relations with” the Jewish state.

The deal with Bhutan comes days after Morocco agreed to normalize relations with Israel, the fourth Arab state to do so since August.

Some analysts say other countries could follow, including Saudi Arabia, Oman and some Asian countries traditionally opposed to Israel, like Indonesia.

Ron Malka, Israel’s ambassador to India, said he signed the agreement with Bhutan on Saturday to establish “formal diplomatic relations”, calling it a “historic day”.

“This agreement will open up many more opportunities for cooperation for the benefit of our two peoples,” Malka said on Twitter.

Photographs he released show officials from both countries signing documents and shaking hands with beaming smiles.

The remote Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, a country of less than a million people, is squeezed between giant neighbors China and India.

Bhutan has tried to shield itself from the drawbacks of globalization, by pursuing “gross national happiness” over GDP growth, maintaining a negative carbon economy and reducing the number of tourists with a daily rate of $ 250. per visitor in high season.

The capital Thimphu has no traffic lights, the sale of tobacco is prohibited, and television was only allowed in 1999.

Archery competitions, with liberal amounts of local firewater, are a national craze.

Phalluses painted on houses to ward off evil are also a common sight.

But the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” also has its problems, including corruption, rural poverty, youth unemployment and criminal gangs.

If Bhutan is proud of its cultural and political independence, it also maintains diplomatic relations with some fifty countries and knows that it will have to open up.

The agreements that Israel has reached in recent months with the four Arab states – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco – have been negotiated by the administration of US President Donald Trump, who is leaving office in less than two months .

Since the UAE-Bahrain agreements, commonly known as the “Abraham’s Agreements,” the Gulf states have signed a series of agreements with Israel, ranging from tourism to aviation and financial services.

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