Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos.
(photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
BOGOTA – Israel has offered its expertise in the “very humanitarian” effort of helping Colombia clear its countryside of anti-personnel mines, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday after meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the palatial Casa de Nariño presidential residence in the city.
After Afghanistan, there are more anti-personnel mines in Colombia – which is just emerging from a 52-year war between the,government and the Marxist-Leninist FARC terrorist organization – – than any other country in the world, he said. An estimated 25,000 people have been killed by these mines over the last 25 years.
Last September, a week after the signing of the historic agreement between the government and FARC that earned Santos a Nobel Peace Prize, an eight-member delegation arrived in Israel to receive instructions from the Defense Ministry’s National Mine Action Authority.
“Your country has been a friend and ally of Colombia, and recently a great ally in the construction of peace in the country,” Santos said. “We would like to strengthen this magnificent relationship.”
Netanyahu arrived in Colombia late Wednesday afternoon for a three hour visit that Santos said was greatly appreciated.
“We are honored to have you visiting here, and are grateful you have chosen Colombia as one of the countries in your first visit to Latin America,” he said.
Santos said that Colombia can learn from Israel how to channel and tap into the the innovation of its people.
The president acknowledged that Israel and Colombia have worked closely in the past on security matters, and that there is an interest in strengthening that cooperation.
Netanyahu – who said that he was in Bogota for one night some 30 years ago as Israel's ambassador to the UN, said that the relationship between the two countries has been a “remarkable” alliance.
The prime minister said that Israel was “excited” about the “post-conflict” possibilities for cooperation: first in agriculture, secondly in water management, and thirdly in the area of cyber security. He announced a project whereby a number of Colombians will come to Israel to learn about the field.
Regarding Colombia's agricultural needs, the country is keen on assistance in replacing the coca plant that was widely grown in areas under FARC control and is responsible for much of the world's cocaine with other crops.
As he did in all his public speeches in Argentina, Netanyahu also highlighted Iran's spread of terrorism around the world.
The threat of radical Islamic terror, he said, “has created new relations between Israel and the Arab states, which no longer see Israel as an enemy but as an essential ally against these forces who seek to bring humanity back from a brilliant future to a barbaric one.”
Iran, he said, “is sending its terrorist wings in all directions, including to Latin America. We believe that all countries should unite, just as Israel cooperates with the Arab states in order to prevent the spread of Iranian aggression and terrorism to other continents.”
Colombia was the second-leg of Netanyahu's three-country Latin American tour, before going to the US on Friday, where he is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump on Monday, and address the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
Netanyahu met briefly at Bogota's airport with representatives of the small Jewish community and some non-Jewish supporters of Israel.
After Colombia he flew to Mexico, where he arrived just before midnight.
On Thursday he is scheduled to attend an economic event aimed at boosting Israeli-Mexican business ties, and in the afternoon meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.