Iran was the top security issue on the agenda of Colombia’s President Iván Duque Márquez in his meetings with President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday.
Colombia was recently admitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors, and Herzog expressed hope that the Latin American country will “advance a meaningful diplomatic battle against the Iranian nuclear program.”
“Like Israel, I know that Colombia is concerned about Iran and Hezbollah’s terror cells being established on your border with Venezuela. From many years of experience, it is clear that these forces must be stopped swiftly—if not a minute sooner,” Herzog added.
Bennett and Duque discussed their “shared security challenges, with an emphasis on Iran,” the Prime Minister’s Office stated.
The prime minister also thanked Duque for Colombia designating Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as terrorist entities.
Duque plans to inaugurate his country’s first innovation office in Jerusalem, a branch of the Colombian Embassy which is in Ramat Gan.
Bennett said that the new office is “a sign that relations between us are stronger than ever.
“Technology and innovation can do extraordinary things, not just for our countries, but for the whole world. We are honored that you chose Israel to be the first country in which Colombia is opening an innovation office,” he stated.
Duque, elected in 2018, was the protegé of former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, and adopted his turn towards more pro-Israel policies, which he continued as an ally of former US president Donald Trump. Colombia’s decision to open an office in Jerusalem as well as its Hezbollah ban, along with other Latin American countries, were policies which the Trump administration had advocated.
Bennett thanked Duque for “leading a strategic change in our relations, and for [his] honest support for Israel and [his] friendship.”
The prime minister called Duque’s visit to the Western Wall the day before “a very significant gesture for the Jewish People and the State of Israel.
“I can tell you with certainty that it will bring you good luck,” Bennett added. “There’s a direct line to God there.”
Duque donned a kippah and left a note in the crevices of the Western Wall during his visit.
Herzog welcomed Duque at the President’s Residence with an Israeli Navy honor guard, and they held a diplomatic working meeting, discussing opportunities for cooperation on environmental technology.
The president praised the opening of Colombia’s first innovation office abroad in Israel’s capital.
Herzog said Israel wants to increase trade with Colombia, and that the August 2020 free trade agreement between the two countries “marked a welcome high point in relations.”
“I hope that trade will increase and flourish for the benefit of both peoples,” Herzog said. “Today our countries are partners in each other’s growth: Israeli citizens enjoy Colombian produce, while Colombia enjoys Israeli agricultural technologies.”
Duque said he hopes the Israel-Colombia free trade agreement will attract greater commerce and investment between the two countries.
“We want to triple exports in the next few years. We want to boost connectivity, artificial intelligence, internet of things, agricultural technology and attract more Israeli technology in our country,” he stated.
The Colombian president said that his country is “en route to become the Silicon Valley of Latin America,” investing heavily in innovation.
Duque also touted his country’s green policies, saying that Colombia “is a leader in the energy transition in Latin America, in a country that is the second most bio-diverse on the planet, with 30% of the territory about to be declared protected by 2022.”
Duque’s delegation included five cabinet ministers, including Minister of National Defense Diego Andrés Molano Aponte; Minister of Health and Social Protection Dr. Fernando Ruiz Gómez; and Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism María Ximena Lombana Villalba, who plan to meet with their Israeli counterparts. Also traveling with Duque were entrepreneurs and members of the Colombian Jewish community, which has fewer than 10,000 members.
Herzog and his wife Michal plan to host a state dinner in Duque’s honor at the President’s Residence on Monday evening.
After his meetings with Herzog and Bennett, Duque went to Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem.
On Tuesday, he plans to attend events at the Israel Innovation Authority, the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, and Start-Up Nation Central in Tel Aviv.