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Israel establishes diplomatic ties with miniscule island of Niue

Israel this week quietly established diplomatic relations with the country of Niue, a tiny island nation in the South Pacific closely tied to New Zealand.

Israeli ambassador Ran Yaakoby visited Niue on Monday to sign an agreement with Premier Dalton Tagelagi establishing diplomatic ties.

“We open the doors to a future of shared opportunities in areas such as technology, trade, education and cultural exchange,” Tagelagi said at the ceremony, according to the local BCN news website.

Niue, a 257-square-kilometer (100-square-mile) coral atoll between Samoa and the Cook Islands, is home to some 2,000 people who largely rely on tourism and agriculture for their livelihoods.

Like the Cook Islands, Niue is part of the realm of New Zealand and is protected by Wellington, but in recent years it has begun to forge its own diplomatic path, establishing ties with a number of countries and international bodies.

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Yaakoby, ambassador to New Zealand, also represents Israel in Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands.

On Friday, he tweeted that he was the first Israeli official to have “ever visited the small but beautiful and friendly island – state of Niue.”

Ambassador Ran Yaakoby casts a vote in Wellington, New Zealand on October 20, 2022. (Foreign Ministry)

“This agreement not only strengthens our ties but also reflects our shared commitment to global peace and security to promote innovation, economic growth, and people-to-people connections for the benefit of both our societies,” Yaakoby said in a government statement Monday.

Israel has made pains to establish friendly ties with tiny South Pacific nations willing to vote against measures hostile to Jerusalem at the United Nations. While neither the larger Cook Islands, which Israel established ties with in 2008, nor Niue are full UN member states, they have seemingly begun to move in that direction, joining various treaties and world bodies.

Esa Sharon-Mona Ainuu, minister of natural resources of Niue, speaks at the COP27 UN Climate Summit, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (AP/Peter Dejong)

New Zealand for years opposed allowing the countries to remain part of its realm and apply for UN voting rights. However, after the US recognized the Cook Islands last year, Wellington has appeared to backpedal, energizing the countries’ push for more independent foreign relations, the New York Times reported in December.

Israel provides the Cook Islands aid money for health and sports programs and provides agricultural training via its Mashav foreign aid body.