Latvian president arrives in Israel

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga arrived in Israel on Sunday night on a three-day state visit that will take her to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Nazareth. She is due to meet with President Moshe Katsav on Monday morning. The Latvian president hosted her Israeli counterpart last year during his official visit to the Baltic countries. Katsav will host a state dinner for Vike-Freiberga and her entourage on Monday night. During her visit Vike-Freiberga will meet with acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and other government officials with a view to expanding the political dialogue between Latvia and Israel and strengthening bilateral ties in economics, science and culture. Political discussions are expected to focus on global security, the general situation in the Middle East, prospects for peace and Israel's position with regard to future cooperation with the new government of the Palestinian Authority following the Hamas victory in the recent Palestinian Legislative Council elections. The Latvian president is scheduled to address the Israel Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday afternoon in Jerusalem. Although Latvia does not have close ties with the Arab world, Vike-Freiberga has visited Jordan and Tunisia within the context of her participation in various international forums. She is also planning to visit Egypt in the near future. She has no plans to visit the Palestinian Authority, but will meet with Arab community leaders in Nazareth. She will also meet with Latvian expatriates at the Latvian Embassy in Tel Aviv. During Vike-Freiberga's visit, an exhibition of the lost synagogues of Latvia, an art project that was promoted in Latvian schools by Latvia's Education Ministry, will be on display at Heichal Shlomo in Jerusalem, and will be officially opened on Tuesday night by Katsav. Part of the exhibition was displayed in Tel Aviv last November at the Latvian Independence Day reception hosted by Latvian Ambassador Karlis Eihenbaums. Vike-Freiberga is the second Latvian president to visit Israel. Guntis Ulmanis, her immediate predecessor in office, came here in 1998. Accompanying Vike-Freiberga are her husband Prof. Imants Freiberg, Economics Minister Krisjanis Karins, Finance Minister Oskars Spurdzins and Agriculture Minister Martins Roze, as well as a 58-member delegation representing Latvia's business community and the Latvian Historians Commission. Israel and Latvia have developed close ties on historical research.