Tuesday 19 June 2018

Higgins meets with Israeli ambassador to defuse row

President Michael D Higgins
President Michael D Higgins
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

President Michael D Higgins defused a potential diplomatic spat with Israel by organising a last-minute meeting with the country's ambassador to Ireland before his tenure ended yesterday.

The Irish Independent revealed the potentially embarrassing row between Israeli Ambassador Boaz Modai and the President's office over allegations Mr Higgin's officials failed to organise a customary farewell meeting.

However, a last-minute meeting was organised yesterday morning after the embassy expressed concern over Mr Modai not being invited to Áras an Uachtaráin for a final meeting with the President.

Mr Higgins is understood to have returned from Galway on Tuesday night to attend the meeting with Mr Modai, who left Ireland yesterday afternoon.

An Israeli embassy spokesman said the meeting with Mr Higgins was "polite and cordial".

"The controversy yesterday was not even mentioned," he told the Irish Independent.

"The President and ambassador discussed the Middle East, Ireland-Israel relations, and some personal issues of common interest. The embassy is glad the meeting between the ambassador and the President went ahead in the end," he added.

Mr Higgins presented Mr Modai and his wife Nurit with a book of his own personal poetry.

A spokesman for the President confirmed a meeting took place at 10.30am but said no more information would be provided.

Mr Modai and his wife flew out of the country after completing their tenure as Israel's envoy in Ireland.

The embassy stood over its claim that it followed proper protocol in seeking a meeting with the President.

Officials said they sent the ambassador's departure dates to the Department of Foreign Affairs in May after receiving a phone call from the Department.

It was presumed by embassy officials that the dates would be passed on to the Áras and a farewell meeting would be arranged as was the case with previous ambassadors.

However, the embassy said it could not release a copy of the email because it was against protocol to give private correspondence with the Department to the media.

The President's office said "some" embassies formally request, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, to visit the President at the conclusion of their posting to Ireland, and all requests have been facilitated this year to date.

The Department claims it did not receive a request from the embassy for a final meeting with the President. Asked if it received the dates of Mr Modai's departure from the embassy, the Department said: "we have nothing to add to our response provided yesterday."

Irish Independent

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