Ritual shows NZ, Israel again friends

Israel's new ambassador, Naftali Tamir, inspected a guard of honour before presenting his credentials to Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright yesterday, signalling an improvement in diplomatic relations following the Israeli spies scandal.

New Zealand's relationship with Israel turned frosty after two alleged Mossad agents were arrested in March last year and charged with trying to fraudulently obtain New Zealand passports. Uriel Zoshe Kelman and Eli Cara were convicted in July last year, then deported last September after serving two months of their six-month prison sentences.

A career diplomat, Mr Tamir had held senior positions within the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Based in Canberra, he is also accredited to Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Earlier, diplomatic sanctions had been imposed against Israel, including delaying approval for the appointment of a new ambassador, until Jerusalem apologised for the passports incident. Two months ago Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Israel had made the required apology.

In a letter, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said his country attached great importance to its relationship with New Zealand and apologised "for the involvement of Israeli citizens in such activities".

Other representatives presenting credentials included ambassadors Asi Tuiataga James Faafili Blakelock from Samoa, Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo representing the Holy See, and Dr Bienvenido V Tejano of the Philippines.

High Commissioners Bernard Mullu Narokobi of Papua New Guinea, and Penny Reedie of Canada are also to present their credentials.

- NZPA

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