Two visiting heads of government at individual meetings with President Shimon
Peres on Thursday described their being in Israel as historic.
Muscat of Malta and Peter O’Neill of Papua New Guinea are the first sitting
prime ministers of their respective countries to visit Israel.
former journalist and investment adviser, has been in office only since March.
O’Neill, who was a businessman before entering politics, has been in office
since August, 2012.
Each came to Israel with a large delegation, and each
is interested in cooperating with Israel in the fields of science and
O’Neill is also interested in developing the Defense
Cooperation Program that his country has with Israel in order to rebuild and
improve the standards of the PNG Defense Force. Additionally, he is looking to
upgrade PNG’s overall security, and bilateral talks on this issue were already
underway prior to his arrival in Israel.
PNG and Israel established
diplomatic relations in 1978, but until recent years, in which Israel began to
pay greater attention to Asia and the Pacific, little was done to enhance
Though rich in natural resources, with huge deposits of
oil, natural gas and minerals, PNG is lacking in innovation and technology,
according to O’Neill, who hopes to cooperate with Israel to remedy this
situation. He said that Israel has a warm place in the hearts of PNG’s 7.5
million citizens – 99 percent of them Christians, with a large Catholic majority
– and that this accounts for the thousands of PNG pilgrims who have come to
Muscat met with a number of Israeli dignitaries before visiting
Peres, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni
and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who escorted him to the city’s Rabin memorial
The Maltese prime minister also signed a health and medical
sciences cooperation agreement with Israel in Jerusalem.
At his meetings
with both Netanyahu and Peres, Muscat discussed the need for cooperation on
other levels as well, among them agriculture, energy and tourism.
greeting each of the two prime ministers, Peres outlined his vision of a global
economy in which companies rather than governments would help alleviate hunger
and poverty, motivated by goodwill rather than the imposition of unenforceable
Peres told Muscat, “the world is divided by violence, and united by
He warned both prime ministers of the danger of
Muscat mentioned the humanitarian crisis that Malta is having,
with the absorption of Syrian refugees and Palestinians.
He said that
Malta is affected by everything that happens by the Mediterranean, and that the
stability of the region is in Malta’s interests.
“The well-being of
Europe depends on peace and stability in the Mediterranean,” he said.
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