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Israel establishes diplomatic relations with Bhutan

Israel establishes diplomatic relations with Bhutan
Ambassador to India Ron Malka with Bhutanese counterpart Vetsop Namgyel sign agreement Saturday to normalize ties. Photo courtesy of Bhutan Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Bhutan and Israel agreed Saturday to establish full diplomatic relations with each other.

Israeli announced the agreement that Ambassador to India Ron Malka and his Bhutanese counterpart, Vetsop Namgyel, signed Saturday night to establish diplomatic relations in a ceremony held at Malka's residence.

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Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi referred to the agreement "a major milestone in deepening Israel's ties with Asia," adding that he hoped to welcome the king of Bhutan to Israel next year.

Ashkenazi and his Bhutanese counterpart, Tandi Dorji, held talks in which they agreed to cooperation in areas such as water management, agriculture and healthcare.

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The agreement will "not only build upon the existing close ties but open the path to greater cooperation and further strengthen relations between the two countries and peoples," a joint statement said.

The deal was not part of the U.S.-brokered deals to normalize ties with Israel from Arab countries, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and most recently Morocco, since the summer.

Bhutan is a remote Buddhist kingdom in South Asia on the Himalayas eastern edge, bordered by Tibet Autonomous Region of China and India that had diplomatic relations with 53 other countries prior to Saturday's agreement.

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The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Bhutan, but maintains informal relations with Bhutan through India, and Bhutan's Mission to the United Nations in New York, according to the U.S. Department of State.

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