Sushma to visit Palestine, Israel

New Delhi, Jan 12 (IANS) External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will visit Palestine and Israel on January 17-18 to review bilateral relations, 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 minister to West Asia, 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 ministry said in a statement.

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

On January 17, Sushma Swaraj will meet the Palestinian leadership and review India-Palestinian relations.

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

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

Sushma Swaraj will 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 ministry said Sushma Swaraj and her delegation will pay an official visit to Israel on January 17-18.

This is the first visit of the external affairs minister to Israel and comes after the state visit of President Mukherjee to Tel Aviv in October.

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

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

India and Israel also share close relations in the fields of agriculture, science and technology and education, it added.

The minister will interact with the Indian community in Israel, augment India’s 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.

Meanwhile, a statement from the Israeli embassy here on Tuesday said Sushma Swaraj will meet and interact with President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Minister of National Infrastructure Yuval Steinitz and Israeli legislators.

In November 2014, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited Israel. In 2015 Israeli Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir and Defence Minister Ya’alon came to India.

Sushma Swaraj had visited Israel in 2008 as chairperson of the Indo-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Group.

“The visit is an important ingredient in the ever-growing relations, friendship and partnership between the two countries,” said the embassy statement.

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