Ecuador's Foreign Affairs Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa attends a news conference in Barcelona, October 24, 2007. .
(photo credit: ALBERT GEA/ REUTERS)
A year after Ecuador’s ambassador to the UN equated Zionism with Nazism, that country’s Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday, signaling a dramatic change in the course of ties between the two countries.
This is the highest-level visit by an Ecuadorian official since 2011, and diplomatic officials said it is further evidence that the country’s new President Lenin Moreno is striking out on a course for his country substantially different from that of his predecessor, Rafael Correa, who had the nation firmly in Venezuela’s Iranian and anti-American orbit.
Moreno, who was Correa’s vice president, won the country’s presidential election in February.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying Netanyahu and Espinosa discussed cooperation between the countries in technology, agriculture and water, as well as the threats in the region – including those emanating from Iran – and “Israel’s demands in order to reach true peace with the Palestinians.”
Israel’s ties with Ecuador have been strained for years, with Quito temporarily withdrawing its ambassador in 2014 to protest Israel’s actions during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza that year. It is among a bloc of anti-American Latin American countries, which also includes Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, that for years has been stridently anti-Israel.
Cracks in that anti-Israel wall began to appear publicly in March, however, when Israel and Nicaragua restored diplomatic ties after a seven-year break, and Espinosa’s visit is viewed in Jerusalem as another example of a change in attitude.
On Wednesday Espinosa thanked Israel for aid it sent to the country after an earthquake hit there in 2016. More than 670 people were killed in that earthquake, and the disaster relief group IsraAID set up a field hospital in a village hit hard by the trembler.
Espinosa and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely also signed an agreement enabling the spouses of diplomatic officials to work in the host country.