Sushma Swaraj to visit Palestine, Israel

New Delhi, Jan 12 (IANS) External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will visit Palestine and Israel on January 17-18, and will review bilateral relations with both sides, it was announced here on Tuesday.

Sushma Swaraj will be accompanied by Secretary (East) and other officials of the external affairs ministry.

“This is the first visit of the external affairs minister to West Asia region and Palestine is the first destination in the region which in itself reflects the importance India holds for Palestine in its engagement with the countries of the region,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.

The visit comes after the state visit of President Pranab Mukherjee to Palestine last October.

During her visit on January 17, Sushma Swaraj will meet with the Palestinian leadership and review India-Palestinian bilateral relations, according to the ministry statement.

“India shares traditionally close relations with the State of Palestine and contributing actively through capacity building and human resource development initiatives with Palestine,” it stated.

“The visit will also reaffirm India’s continued political, diplomatic and developmental support to Palestine.”

Sushma Swaraj will also inaugurate the Palestine Digital Learning and Innovation Centre in Ramallah.

“The visit will further deepen the mutual understanding at the political level and boost bilateral engagement with Palestine,” the statement added.

In a separate statement, the external affairs ministry said Sushma Swaraj and her delegation will pay an official visit to Israel from January 17 to 18.

This is the first visit of Sushma Swaraj as the external affairs minister to Israel and comes after the state visit of President Mukherjee to Israel in October 2015.

Stating that India and Israel shared a close and multifaceted relationship, the statement said during the visit, Sushma Swaraj would hold discussions with the Israeli leadership and “review the entire gamut of India-Israel bilateral relations”.

“The two sides share a firm belief in the values of democracy and free market economy,” it stated.

According to the statement, India and Israel also share close relations in the fields of agriculture, science and technology and education.

During the visit, the external affairs minister will interact with the Indian community in Israel, augment India’s bilateral relations with Israel and further strengthen the linkages between the two sides.

“India’s relations with Israel are part of its engagement with the broader West Asia region and are independent to its relations with any country in the region,” the statement added.

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