India attaches “the highest importance” to the full development of ties with Israel, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Monday, adding that there was room for more growth in the rapidly developing bilateral relations.
Swaraj, on the second day of a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, said at a press opportunity before meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that, “Our bilateral cooperation has developed well in a number of areas over the past two decades, but the potential of our relations is much more.”
Sarwaj, who visited Israel once before she became foreign minister in 2014, is only the third Indian foreign minister to visit the country, and the first since 2012. Her visit is seen as an indication of the flowering of ties between the two countries and as a precursor to an expected visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This would be the first-ever visit to Israel by an Indian prime minister.
Swaraj also met with President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, and deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely.
Netanyahu welcomed Swaraj to his office, saying, “The Middle East’s only democracy welcomes the foreign minister of the world’s greatest democracy.”
Netanyahu said the two countries were “intensifying our contacts and our cooperation in so many fields – in the fields of science and technology and cyber and defense and agriculture and health – everything.”
And, he said, “We want to do more.”
In addition to bilateral issues, the two also discussed regional issues and the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
During the meeting, Netanyahu showed Swaraj a two-minute video on Palestinian incitement – featuring statements by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and anti-Israel rants on PA television and in schools – that he said explained Sunday’s killing of Dafna Meir and Monday’s stabbing of Michal Froman.
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold met with new Egyptian ambassador Hazem Khairat.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Gold said the return of the ambassador to Tel Aviv was an “important step.” Gold said Israel viewed Egypt as an “important country” and stressed the importance of the diplomatic ties between the two states. “The two discussed the regional challenges and the possibilities of cooperation between the two countries,” the statement said.
Khairat arrived in Israel last month, the first Egyptian ambassador to take up residency here since Egypt recalled its ambassador in 2012 during Operation Pillar of Defense.
Meanwhile, Channel 2 reported that Steinitz visited Abu Dhabi this week to attend a conference on energy issues.
In November Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold went there to pave the way for the opening of an Israeli office accredited to the International Renewable Energy Agency located there.
Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.
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