Friday 15 December 2017

Togo postpones Africa-Israel summit

Togo postpones Africa-Israel summit
(AFP (eng) 09/12/17)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, shakes hands during a joint statements with Togo's President Faure Gnassingbe in Jerusalem, Aug. 10, 2016.

Togo on Monday cancelled an upcoming Africa-Israel summit, citing lack of time to prepare, after days of anti-government protests targeting President Faure Gnassingbe.

The summit was due to have been held in the capital, Lome, late next month and was billed as a chance for closer cooperation in trade, security and diplomacy.

"The summit has indeed been postponed," a source at Togo's foreign ministry told AFP, confirming an earlier statement from his counterparts in Israel.

"No new date has been agreed yet," he added, without elaborating.

Israel's foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Gnassingbe himself had requested the event be pushed back after discussions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"The president of Togo has emphasised that elaborate preparations are needed in order to guarantee the success of the event," said Nahshon.

A number of African countries were reportedly threatening to boycott the October 23-27 event, in protest at Israel's conduct in the Palestinian conflict.

Morocco's king Mohamed VI stayed away from a summit of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS in Liberia in June, because Netanyahu was invited.

The summit postponement also comes after Togo's opposition parties turned out in force in Lome and other cities across the country last week, calling for Gnassingbe to resign.

Opposition leaders on Monday called for another huge turn-out on Tuesday to demand constitutional reform outside parliament, were lawmakers were due to meet.

Further marches were scheduled for next Wednesday and Thursday.

Gnassingbe's government last week approved a draft bill for political change after protesters called for limits on presidential mandates and a two-round voting system.

The president has been in power since 2005, when he took over from his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for nearly 40 years.

Opposition parties have called the bill a "delaying tactic" and the government has since suggested it may not be discussed in full or approved on Tuesday.

Any amendment to the constitution requires the approval of four fifths of the national assembly.

"We're going to keep up the pressure until Faure Gnassingbe goes," said Eric Dupuy, spokesman for the main opposition National Alliance for Change party.

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