Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos are pledging to strengthen ties in areas like science, security and tourism as Colombia transitions into a post-conflict era. Netanyahu arrived in Bogota on Wednesday for the second-leg of his trip as the first Israeli prime minister to visit Latin America.
He said that he sees “enormous progress” in Colombia, adding that it “merely sets the stage for what will happen in the next 30 years.”
Colombia and Israel have long enjoyed a close military alliance though the relationship has also had its moments of tension. Santos called Israel a “friend and an ally” in Colombia’s historic peace process with the nation’s largest rebel group, the FARC.
Netanyahu traveled from Argentina and is flying on to Mexico.
Colombia, said Israel Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem, is a country on the rise. He added Colombia is embarking on post-conflict reconstruction, and that Netanyahu will explore with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos areas where Israel can be of assistance.
Israel has for years maintained a robust security relationship with the Colombian government. Even with the peace agreement there, this relationship is expected to continue as the country faces significant security challenges from neighboring Venezuela. But with Colombia entering a period of post war reconstruction, Israel is also interested in becoming involved in that process as well.
”There are many projects the (newly formed) Post-Conflict Ministry is trying to promote, and we believe that in a modest way we can also be a part of that journey,” Rotem said. For instance, last year a Colombian delegation visited Israel for training in land mine clearance, a major challenge for a country coming out of more than half a century of war.