Colombian minister: We want to strengthen relations with Israel

President Peres hosts Defense Minister Juan Santos at Beit Hanassi in Jerusalem.

Peres Santos 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Peres Santos 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Notwithstanding anti-Israel sentiment in different parts of the world, Israel is not exactly a nation that dwells alone, as evidenced by the ongoing stream of visits by senior government representatives from around the globe. Colombian Defense Minister Juan Santos made it very clear when he met with President Shimon Peres on Thursday that Colombia not only values its long-standing friendship with Israel, but wants to strengthen the relationship through enhanced cooperation on every level, especially in the fields of security and trade. Santos told Peres how much his country admires Israel, and disclosed that the main purpose for his visit here was to establish a joint Israel-Colombia technological research and development fund. He said that he also intended to meet government officials and people from the private sector who are involved in international trade and commerce with a view to upgrading bilateral trade relations. As is the case with nearly all foreign dignitaries who visit Beit Hanassi, the conversation quickly turned to terrorism. Santos expressed concern at the recent escalation of terrorism not only in the Middle East, but worldwide, a lot of which he attributed to the relations between Iran and Venezuela. Within the context of the discussion on terrorism, Santos spoke warmly of the cooperation that exists between the defense establishments of Israel and Colombia in their common desire to eliminate terrorism. Peres recalled his first visit to Colombia 56 years ago when serving as head of Israel's defense delegation in the US. Moreover, he revealed, Israel has every reason to be grateful to Colombia which in the early years of the state was willing to supply Israel with a great deal of arms when it was difficult to acquire them elsewhere. Colombia stood firm with Israel during a period when other countries imposed an arms embargo, said Peres, and this was not something that Israel was likely to forget. In recent years, he added, there has been the closing of a circle in that when Colombia needed Israel's support, Israel was able to give it.