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Argentinian foreign minister’s Israel visit on schedule

JTA

April 4, 2011 | 10:13 am

Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman will visit Israel accompanied by businessmen and relatives of victims of the bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center.

Timerman will arrive in Israel Monday for a two-day visit that is scheduled to include meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He is also expected to meet with Tzipi Livni, Israel’s ex-foreign minister and now its opposition leader, as well as other Israeli political leaders.

As part of a multi-sector trade mission, Timerman will meet Tuesday in Tel Aviv with the CEOs of several Israeli companies, and he is scheduled to launch a business seminar followed by negotiations between Argentine businessmen and their Israeli counterparts in areas including food, wine, tourism and pharmaceuticals.

The trip remains on schedule despite an article last week in the Argentinian newspaper Perfil alleging that the South American country told Iran it would stop investigating two bombings of Jewish targets in exchange for better trade relations. Iran is accused of being behind the attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina, which killed 29 and injured 242, and the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires.

Israel had threatened to cancel Timerman’s scheduled visit to the Jewish state if he did not clarify that Argentina would continue to pursue the investigations. Timerman issued the clarification during a meeting last week with Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky.

Timerman, who is Jewish, reportedly made the offer during a visit to Syria in January. Syrian President Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Walid Moallem reportedly were the mediators and brought the offer to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

According to Perfil, Argentina was hoping the deal would lead to more trade with Iran, which is currently estimated at $1.2 billion a year.

Under the reported deal, which is based on a classified Iranian document, Argentina would drop its investigations into the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy, which killed 29 and injured 242, and the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center, in which 85 people were killed and more than 300 injured.

Trade between Argentina and Israel in 2010 reached $249 million. Argentine exports to Israel were $222 million, while imports topped $127 million.

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