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Colombia breaks diplomatic ties with Israel but its military relies on key Israeli-built equipment

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Colombia breaks diplomatic ties with Israel but its military relies on key Israeli-built equipment

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia has turn into the newest Latin American nation to announce that it’s going to break diplomatic relations with Israel over its army marketing campaign in Gaza, however the repercussions for the South American nation may very well be broader than for different international locations due to longstanding bilateral agreements over safety issues.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Wednesday described Israel’s actions in Gaza as “genocide,” and introduced his authorities would finish diplomatic relations with Israel efficient Thursday. However he did not handle how his choice may have an effect on Colombia’s army, which makes use of Israeli-built warplanes and machine weapons to combat drug cartels and insurgent teams, and a free commerce settlement between each international locations that went into impact in 2020.

Additionally within the area, Bolivia and Belize have additionally severed diplomatic relations with Israel over the Israel-Hamas battle.

Right here’s a have a look at Colombia’s shut Israel ties and fallout:

Colombia and Israel have signed dozens of agreements on wide-ranging points, together with training and commerce, since they established diplomatic relations in 1957. However nothing hyperlinks them nearer than army contracts.

Colombia’s fighter jets are all Israeli-built. The greater than 20 Kfir Israeli-made fighter jets had been utilized by its air drive in quite a few assaults on distant guerrilla camps that debilitated the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The assaults helped push the insurgent group into peace talks that resulted in its disarmament in 2016.

However the fleet, bought within the late Eighties, is growing older and requires upkeep, which may solely be carried out by an Israeli agency. Producers in France, Sweden and the USA have approached Colombia’s authorities with alternative choices, however the spending priorities of Petro’s administration are elsewhere.

Colombia’s army additionally makes use of Galil rifles, which had been designed in Israel and for which Colombia acquired the rights to fabricate and promote. Israel additionally assists the South American nation with its cybersecurity wants.

It stays unclear.

Colombia’s Overseas Ministry mentioned Thursday in a press release that “all communications associated to this announcement might be made via established official channels and won’t be public.” The ministry did not instantly reply to a request for remark from The Related Press, whereas the Israeli Embassy in Bogota declined to handle the difficulty.

Nevertheless, a day earlier than Petro introduced his choice, Colombian Protection Minister Iván Velásquez instructed lawmakers that no new contracts might be signed with Israel, although present ones might be fulfilled, together with these for upkeep for the Kfir fighters and one for missile methods.

Velásquez mentioned the federal government has established a “transition” committee that will search to “diversify” suppliers to keep away from relying on Israel. He added that one of many prospects into account is the event of a rifle by the Colombian army business to exchange the Galil.

Safety cooperation has been on the middle of tensions between the 2 international locations. Israel mentioned in October that it could halt safety exports to Colombia after Petro refused to sentence Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel that triggered the battle and in contrast Israel’s actions in Gaza to these of Nazi Germany. In February, Petro introduced the suspension of arms purchases from Israel.

For retired Gen. Guillermo León, former commander of the Colombian air drive, the nation’s army capabilities might be affected if Petro’s administration breaks its contract obligations or even when it complies with them however refuses to signal new ones.

“On the finish of the 12 months, upkeep and spare components run out, and from then on, the fleet would quickly enter a situation the place we’d now not have the means to maintain it,” he instructed the AP. “This 12 months, three plane had been withdrawn from service as a result of compliance with their helpful life cycle.”

A free commerce settlement between Colombia and Israel went into impact in August 2020. Israel now buys 1% of Colombia’s whole exports, which embrace coal, espresso and flowers.

In keeping with Colombia’s Ministry of Commerce, exports to Israel final 12 months totaled $499 million, which represents a drop of 53% from 2022.

Colombia’s imports from Israel embrace electrical gear, plastics and fertilizers.

Neither authorities has defined whether or not the diplomatic feud will have an effect on the commerce settlement.

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Observe AP’s protection of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america

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