Netanyahu wraps up Latin America trip in Mexico
Concluding in Mexico first ever trip by sitting Israeli premier to Latin America, Netanyahu asks President Enrique Pena Nieto for 'pardon' for the 'unpardonable lapse' as he seeks to deepen ties; extends invite to Israel to Nieto; 'Next year in Jerusalem.'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded his six-day visit to Latin America Thursday after spending his final day in Mexico where he told the country's President Enrique Pena Nieto "we can bring the fruits of (Israeli) innovation to the people of Mexico."
Nieto said on Thursday that his country had accepted Israel's offer to help it and the United States develop Central America, as Israel and Mexico seek to deepen business ties.
Speaking at a news conference with Nieto, Netanyahu described the meeting as "a milestone" pointing out that the trip was the first to take place by any sitting Israeli prime minister.
"This is the first visit since the founding of the State of Israel of an Israeli prime minister in Latin America. It's the first visit in Mexico. It is, I would say, an unpardonable lapse, but we want the pardon," Netanyahu said.
"We're here. We think that we correct now a historic lapse, because Mexico is a great country. It's one of the world's great economies, it's a great nation, a great people, a great culture. We want to be close, even closer to Mexico, and this is what this meeting signifies."
Expressing his determination to "sieze the future" and to deepen Israel-Mexico ties in a variety of fields, the Israeli premier concluded by inviting the Mexican leader to Israel.
"The saying the Jewish people have had for many centuries was 'next year in Jerusalem.' So I would like to say this year in Jerusalem but it's rather late in the year, so I say, inviting you, to Israel next year in Jerusalem, my friend Enrique," Netanyahu said.
Pena Nieto said at the press conference that the two nations had agreed to update their free trade agreement, which was signed in 2000.
"We have agreed to establish and begin the ... negotiations to look over this agreement so that the commercial relationship between both nations intensifies and grows," he said.
Netanyahu was joined by a business delegation including representatives from communications firm AudioCodes Ltd , cyber security firm Verint Systems Inc and Mer Group, which specializes in telecommunications and cyber security.
In Central America, Pena Nieto said Israel's assistance could bolster the United States and Mexico's efforts in the region, particularly in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He noted that Israel brings experience from carrying out development projects in Africa.
The United States and Mexico have been seeking to encourage investment in infrastructure improvements in Central America's so-called Northern Triangle in an effort to stem migration to the United States.
The relationship between the nations was strained earlier this year by a tweet in which Netanyahu appeared to praise US President Donald Trump's plans to build a wall on the Mexican border. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin later issued a statement apologizing for any misunderstanding.