File: International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. She says South Africa has downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel.
JOHANNESBURG - South Africa has downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv, the foreign minister said Sunday, following a decision taken by the ruling party more than a year ago.
International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu told journalists in Johannesburg that plans to downgrade the embassy in Israel were well underway.
"We will not be putting up a nomination for a representative at the level of an ambassador in Israel," Sisulu said.
"The office will remain at the level of a liaison and that is how it will operate," she added.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) resolved to downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel to liaison office level 16 months ago.
The ANC has in the past voiced its solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, which many South Africans see as similar to the struggle against white minority rule in South Africa which was ended in 1994.
Last May South Africa recalled its ambassador to Israel after at least 52 Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli forces during protests over the United States moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
Addressing delegates at the South African Institute of International Affairs on Wednesday, Sisulu said the liaison office in Tel Aviv "will have no political mandate, no trade mandate, and no development cooperation mandate. It will not be responsible for trade and commercial activities".
She added that the office would focus on consular and "people-to-people relations".