Colombia will suspend coal exports to Israel over war in Gaza


Colombian President Gustavo Petro says his country will suspend coal exports to Israel over the war in Gaza

ByMANUEL RUEDA Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced on Saturday that his country will suspend coal exports to Israel over the war in Gaza, as relations sour between two countries that were once close military and commercial allies.

Petro wrote on the social media platform X that coal exports will only resume “when the genocide” in Gaza stops. Petro also posted a draft decree, which says that coal exports will only resume if Israel complies with a recent order by the International Court of Justice that says Israel should withdraw its troops from the Gaza strip.

According to Colombia’s National Statistics Department, coal exports to Israel were worth more than $320 million in the first eight months of last year. That’s a small fraction of the nation’s overall coal exports which were worth more than $9 billion in 2023.

Israel imports more than 50% of its coal from Colombia, according to the American Journal for Transportation, and uses much of it to feed its power plants.

Petro, who was elected into office in 2022 as Colombia’s first leftist president, broke diplomatic ties with Israel in May saying that he could not maintain relations with the “genocidal” government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Both governments have continued to keep consulates in each other’s territories and conduct trade.

Colombia has long depended on Israel for military hardware that includes assault rifles and intelligence equipment. The South American nation has also bought more than 30 fighter jets from Israel over the past three decades, and depends on Israeli companies for their maintenance.

New military purchases have been halted, however, as relations between both countries deteriorate. Critics of Petro have said that the president’s decision to cut ties with Israel jeopardizes Colombia’s security capabilities as its military fights drug cartels and rebel groups in rural parts of the country.

But others applauded Petro’s latest move against Israel. The Global Energy Embargo for Palestine, an advocacy group that has been trying to convince nations around the world to stop coal and oil exports to Israel, said in a statement on Saturday that Colombia’s decision could put pressure on Israel to change its policies in the Gaza Strip, and will also put pressure on Israeli settlements in the West Bank that rely on electric plants fueled by coal imports.

“We urgently call on South Africa, which provides 9% of Israel’s coal, to follow Colombia’s lead,” the group said in the statement, while urging other countries with significant energy exports to also consider a ban.

Unlike previous Colombian presidents, who kept strong ties with Israel, Petro has been an outspoken critic of the middle eastern nation, and initially refused to condemn the Hamas attack that preceded Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

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