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Netanyahu 1st Israeli PM to visit Latin America

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10th-Sep-2017       
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AFP, Jerusalem  :
Benjamin Netanyahu is set to become the first sitting Israeli premier to visit Latin America, in a trip that includes Argentina 25 years after the country's embassy was bombed there.
The tour, which will see agreements boosting trade and cooperation with South American countries, is part of Israel's move to broaden the scope of its diplomacy and trade to new regions, including parts of Asia and Africa.
Netanyahu will leave Israel on Sunday to visit Argentina, Colombia and Mexico between September 11-15 before heading to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
He will also meet with Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes while in Buenos Aires.
The "historic" visit will be the first to Latin America by a sitting Israeli premier, Netanyahu said ahead of the trip.
"We're now developing ties with Latin America-it's a huge market in a large bloc of important states," he said at a Jewish New Year's toast with Israeli diplomats on Wednesday.
According to Netanyahu, the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians is less of a concern to the international community than in previous years.
"The underlying assumption was that if we reach an agreement with the Palestinians, which we wanted and still want, it will open the world to us. There's no doubt that would help, but the world is opening even without it," he said.
The visit is expected to enable further growth in commercial ties between Israel and Argentina.
"There is a good opportunity to increase investment and trade," a senior official in the Argentine foreign ministry said.
The Argentina trip will have special significance, with Netanyahu attending memorial ceremonies for the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy and 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre there.
The embassy bombing killed 29 people and wounded 200, with members of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah blamed for the attack.
Eighty-five people were killed and 300 wounded in the Jewish centre bombing.
Argentine investigators accuse five former Iranian officials of ordering Hezbollah to carry out that bombing. Iran denies any involvement.

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