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The Telegraph

Israel announces full diplomatic relations with Bhutan

Israel announced on Saturday that it is establishing full diplomatic relations with the relatively isolated Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, the latest in a string of international deals designed to show Israel’s growing acceptance abroad. “The circle of recognition of Israel is widening,” said Israeli foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi. “The establishment of relations with the Kingdom of Bhutan will constitute a new stage in the deepening of Israel’s relations in Asia.” The agreement follows several years of secret contact between the two countries with the aim of establishing relations, according to a statement from Israel’s foreign ministry. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the deal, tweeting that it is an “additional fruit of the peace agreements”. The accord between the two countries does not appear to be linked to the US-backed Abraham accords, in which four Arab countries have agreed to normalise relations with the Jewish state since August. Mr Netanyahu added that Israel was in contact with more countries to normalise relations. Bhutan is a relatively isolated country and only maintains diplomatic relations with around 53 countries, which does not include the US, UK or France, who only maintain informal contact via India. With a population of around 800,000 people, the Kingdom of Bhutan is wedged between neighbouring giants, China and India. They have long relied on the latter for guidance on foreign and defence policy. Ron Malka, the Israeli ambassador to India said he signed the agreement with his Bhutanese counterpart, Maj Gen Vestop Namgyel, on Saturday night, calling the agreement a “historic day”. The joint statement on the deal said the key areas of cooperation would include economic, technological and agricultural development. “The ties between the peoples through cultural exchanges and tourism would also be further enhanced,” the statement added. Bhutan was closed off to tourists until 1970 and still strictly limits entry to the country with a $250 daily fee per visitor in high season

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