Israel establishes diplomatic relations with Bhutan

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JERUSALEM – Israel has established diplomat­ic relations with the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, the Jew­ish state’s foreign ministry an­nounced Saturday.

“The circle of recognition of Is­rael is widening,” Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a statement. “The establishment of relations with the Kingdom of Bhutan will constitute a new stage in the deepening of Israel’s relations in Asia.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benja­min Netanyahu hailed the agree­ment, saying in a statement that Israel was “in contact with other countries that want to establish relations with” the Jewish state.

The deal with Bhutan comes days after Morocco agreed to normalise relations with Isra­el, the fourth Arab state to do so since August. According to some analysts, other countries could follow, including Saudi Arabia, Oman and some Asian countries traditionally opposed to Israel, such as Indonesia.

Ron Malka, the Israeli Ambas­sador to India, said he signed the agreement with Bhutan to es­tablish “formal diplomatic re­lations” on Saturday, calling it a “historic day”.”This agreement will open up many more oppor­tunities for cooperation for the benefit of both our peoples,” Malka said on Twitter.

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Photographs he posted showed officials from the two countries signing documents and shaking hands with beaming smiles.

The remote Buddhist King­dom of Bhutan, a country of less than a million people, is wedged between giant neighbours Chi­na and India.

Bhutan has tried to shield itself from the downsides of globalisa­tion, striving for “Gross Nation­al Happiness” over GDP growth, maintaining a carbon-negative economy and keeping tourist numbers down with a daily fee of $250 per visitor in high season.

The capital Thimphu has no traffic lights, the sale of tobac­co is banned, and television was only allowed in 1999.

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