Pope Francis is looking forward with great anticipation to his visit to Israel on May 24, Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman told President Shimon Peres on Monday.

Timerman said the pontiff, who is also from Argentina, is very excited about his forthcoming trip.

Timerman, who is Jewish, said that he is pleased to be in Israel again. This is his 15th or 16th visit he said, but only his second as foreign minister.

Peres said that Israel would like to expand its relations with Argentina, especially in the areas of science and agriculture.

“Argentina has always seen itself as a friend of Israel’s and believes that Israel is a great friend of Argentina’s,” said Timerman. “We want to see Israel live in peace and security with her neighbors, which I’m sure was the dream of Israel’s founding fathers. I’m also certain that peace is the dream of Israelis today, as well as of Palestinians.”

Drawing certain parallels among Argentina, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, Timerman said that Latin America is a continent that has suffered greatly under colonialism, and that it had taken in refugees from throughout the world, including Holocaust survivors.

He assured Peres that Israel can always depend on Argentina for any assistance on the path to peace. “We don’t want to intervene” he said, “but we do want to help our friends to solve conflicts.”

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