SINGAPORE — More than 50 years after Singapore set up diplomatic relations with Israel, the city-state will open an embassy in the Jewish state.
In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Monday (21 March), MFA said the embassy in Tel Aviv will "serve as a focal point and support Singapore companies seeking to expand their collaboration with potential Israeli partners”.
The two countries set up diplomatic ties in 1969, a few years after they began a covert military partnership, with Israel playing a key role in helping to build the fledgling Singapore defence force.
While Israel has had an embassy in Singapore at different locations for more than five decades, Singapore only opted to set up an honorary consulate in Tel Aviv at the start of their diplomatic relations, an arrangement that continues to this day. Currently, Lim Chuan Poh is Singapore's non-resident ambassador-designate to Israel.
The announcement to open the embassy was made at the start of the official three-day visit by Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan to Israel. It is the most high-profile visit by a Singapore leader since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official five-day visit to Israel in 2016, where he met then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders.
In the book, “Beating The Odds Together – 50 Years of Singapore-Israel Ties”, Simona Halperin, who was Israel’s ambassador to Singapore from 2017 to 2019, wrote about the importance of Lee’s visit to Israel. “The visit was a significant step in ‘outing’ the 50-year partnership between the two nations that grew wide and deep, spanning areas such as education, science, economy, technological collaboration, arts and culture,” Halperin said.
On Monday, Dr Balakrishnan met with Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid and Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology Orit Farkash-Hacohen.
In his meetings, Dr Balakrishnan reaffirmed the longstanding ties between Singapore and Israel in multiple fields. Both sides welcomed closer cooperation in areas such as innovation and technology, trade and investment, research and development, and education. The Singapore-Israel Industrial Research & Development Foundation (SIIRD) is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2022 and has funded about 190 projects since its inception in 1997, providing about US$120 million to projects between Singapore and Israel.
Dr Balakrishnan highlighted that Singapore and Israel should deepen collaboration in emerging areas such as agri-food tech, health-tech, artificial intelligence (AI) and digitalisation. The setting up of the embassy is to strengthen the innovation partnership between Singapore and Israel, MFA said in its statement.
In a tweet on his official Twitter account, Lapid welcomed the establishment of Singapore's embassy in Tel Aviv. “This decision is further evidence of the good and special relations between our countries," Lapid said.
Dr Balakrishnan and Farkash-Hacohen also signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in AI between Singapore’s Smart Nation and Digital Government Office and Israel’s Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology.
On his discussions with Lapid regarding regional and international developments, Dr Balakrishnan emphasised that Singapore has long supported a negotiated two-state solution, consistent with relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, with Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security.
“Singapore hopes that both the Israeli and Palestinian sides would find ways to engage in direct negotiations on the basis of a two-state solution. All parties should refrain from any unilateral actions that could increase tensions and undermine the prospects for peace,” MFA said.
On Sunday, MFA said in a statement that Dr Balakrishnan conveyed Singapore’s intention to establish a representative office in Ramallah in the Palestinian Territories to coordinate Singapore's technical assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and support the work of Singapore’s non-resident representative to the PA.
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