Argentina’s Foreign Affairs Minister Héctor Timerman began his first official trip to Israel and denied offering to “forget” Iran's role in attacks against Israel's Embassy in BA and AMIA Jewish Community Centre in exchange for improved trade ties with Teheran.
Early Monday Timerman met with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Liberman at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Both officials remarked the “historic and friendly relationship” between Argentina and Israel.
Minister Timerman remarked that “there is nothing that could interfere between the profound and historic relationship Argentina has with Israel”, thus trying to play down a story published by Buenos Aires newspaper Perfil indicating that Argentina is willing to forget the on-going investigations on the terrorist bombing attacks committed to the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, and the AMIA Jewish Community Centre in 1994 in exchange for improved trade ties between the two nations.
Iranian terrorists and even officials of President Mahmoud Amahdinejad administration have been linked to the attacks and Argentina has issued international arrest warrants against them.
Furthermore, Timmerman denied the reports and said in a speech to a crowd in Jerusalem: Argentina already trades freely with Iran, so what am I going to get by forgetting the investigation? What kind of commercial benefit?, and added, I stand here as a representative of the Argentine government, determined to do justice in this matter.
The minister also reminded his audience that in her speech to the UN General Assembly in September, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner called on Teheran to agree to allow Iranian citizens accused of involvement in the attack to be brought to justice in a third country.
In the 1992 embassy bombing, 29 people were killed and 242 were injured. In the bombing at the AMIA Jewish community centre, two years later, 85 people were killed and more than 300 were injured.
According to Perfil’s story, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi had presented president Ahmadinejad with an official diplomatic memo indicating that during a meeting between minister Timerman and his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Mohalem and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on January 23-24 in the Syrian city of Alepo, the Argentine official suggested that “Argentina is no longer interested in investigating the two bombing attacks in order to reinforce the commercial ties with Iran”.
The alleged meeting took place during President Cristina Isabel Fernández de Kirchner’s official trip to Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey last January.
The diplomatic report, leaked by Iran’s anti-Ahmadinejad media groups, also indicates that Iran believes Timerman comments could mean Argentina will stop asking Interpol for ordering the arrests of Iran’s current Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi as well other officials suspected of having some grade of participation in the attacks.
Timerman will also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition's leader Tzipi Livni, and several lawmakers. The arrival of the Argentine official is not seen with good eyes by the Israeli officials as they can't understand why and how the Argentine government hasn't even come on to stage to deny the alleged document revealed by Iranian media.
During the meeting with Liberman, the Israeli minister announced that his government is thinking of “resuming direct flights between Tel Aviv and Buenos Aires”, and thanked for the MERCOSUR-Israel agreement.