Israel established diplomatic relations on Saturday with Bhutan, a majority-Buddhist nation neighbouring India, the Israeli foreign ministry said.
Israel’s new relations with the relatively-isolated Himalayan nation did not appear to be related to its budding ties under U.S.-sponsored accords with Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa.
The agreement follows several years of secret contacts between Israel and Bhutan with the aim of establishing relations, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Israel’s circle of recognition is growing and expanding. The establishment of relations between us and the Kingdom of Bhutan will serve as another milestone in deepening Israel’s ties in Asia,” Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.
Bhutan has full diplomatic ties with only 53 countries, Israel’s foreign ministry said.
A signing ceremony was held between the Israeli and Bhutanese ambassadors to India on Saturday, the foreign ministry said. The countries agreed to formulate a joint work plan in the areas of water management, agriculture, healthcare and other areas, it added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the agreement, adding: “We are in contact with other countries that want to join and establish relations with us.”
The move comes two days after Israel and Morocco agreed to normalise ties in a deal brokered with U.S. help, making it the fourth Arab country – after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan – to set aside hostilities with Israel in the past four months.