Israel established diplomatic relations on Saturday with Bhutan, a majority-Buddhist nation neighboring India, the Israeli foreign ministry said.
Israel’s new relations with the relatively-isolated Himalayan nation did not appear to be related to its growing ties under U.S.-sponsored accords with Muslim and Arab countries in Africa and the Middle East.
The agreement follows several years of secret contacts between Israel and Bhutan to establish relations, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Israel’s circle of recognition is growing and expanding. The establishment of relations between the Kingdom of Bhutan and us 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.
The foreign ministry said a signing ceremony was held between the Israeli and Bhutanese ambassadors to India on Saturday. The countries agreed to formulate a joint work plan in agriculture, water management, healthcare, and other areas.
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 normalize ties in a deal brokered with U.S. help, making it the fourth Arab country – after Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Sudan – to set aside hostilities with Israel in the past four months.