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President of Guatemala on first visit to Israel

Netanyahu: The greatest threat to the peace of the world is Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. I believe that this is a common need of any country in any region that wants to see a peaceful world, because Iran is seeking influence even in Latin America.
President Shimon Peres welcomed the President of Guatemala Otto Fernando Perez Molina in a state ceremony on his first visit to Israel: "Welcome to the State of Israel and to Jerusalem. We welcome you as the President of Guatemala, Israel's partner in peace."

President Molina arrived to Israel with a 21-member delegation that included Minister of Foreign Affairs Luis Fernando Carrera Castro, Minister of Defense Manuel Lopez Ambrocio, Minister of Agriculture Elmer Lopez Rodriguez, and George Tanenbaum, President of the Guatemala Jewish Community.

At the ceremony, both Peres and Molina spoke of Jorge Garcia Granados who, in May 1947, as Guatemala’s ambassador to the United Nations, was appointed as a member of the UN Special Committee of Palestine. Of the eleven members of the UNSCOP team, the representative of Guatemala was the most persuasive, and on November 29, 1947 the Partition Plan was approved by the UN General Assembly by a majority vote, paving the way for the creation of the State of Israel.


Statements by PM Netanyahu and the President Otto Fernando Perez Molina of Guatemala

Prime Minister Netanyahu: President Molina, it's a great pleasure to welcome you and you delegation here in Israel, in Jerusalem. Guatemala is one of Israel's oldest friends and we always remember that you stood with us on the formative days of Israel's independence and the votes on the international recognition in the UN for the establishment of the Jewish state, and we will never forget that.

Now, this is the first time of a visit of the President of Guatemala to Israel and it's an opportunity to further strengthen our relationship and I believe this is possible in many many areas – agriculture, water, infrastructure, health services, defense, all of this and many others – and I welcome the opportunity of this visit and our discussions to do exactly that, strengthen the cooperation between Guatemala and Israel, and I believe your visit expresses exactly that same desire.

We also share a desire to see a peaceful and stable Middle East, and the greatest threat to that and to the peace of the world is Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. It's therefore critical that the final deal with Iran prevent that from happening. Here's what this means: no enrichment, no centrifuges, no heavy water reactor, no weapons program, no ballistic missiles and a change in Iran's policies – no genocide against Israel, no terrorist support, no undermining of regimes in the Middle East. This is what the next negotiation must establish. None of the components of Iran's nuclear program and missile program that I described are necessary for civilian nuclear energy. They are only necessary for the creation of atomic weapons and the means to deliver them, and that is exactly why Iran must be denied these capabilities.

I believe, Mr. President, that this is a common need of any country in any region that wants to see a peaceful world, because Iran is seeking influence even in Latin America, and we all have a vested interest that they don’t have the power to expand their aggression and their radicalism anywhere.

I hope that you'll have a chance to visit the holy places and many other places to see our old-new country when you're here. This is the seat of our common heritage and the prophets that are in the Bible walked here, they were walking in Jerusalem. Well, now you are walking here and you can see both people anchored in old heritage but also seizing the future with technology, with science, with innovation, which we would gladly share with you.

So welcome to Jerusalem.

President Molina (via interpreter): Thank you very much, Prime Minister Netanyahu. It is a great pleasure for me to be here in this official visit, which as you said, is the first official visit of Guatemala in Israel. There are excellent relations between both our countries and between the people of Israel and the people of Guatemala and as you said as well, Guatemala did participate in the foundation of Israel, so that has led the foundations for a tradition and the unity between our two peoples.

There's also a tradition for cooperation. There are more than 5,000 Guatemalans who have come to Israel to learn new techniques and acquire new skills, and that has helped us very much. And regarding also what you said about cooperation, the areas that you mentioned, that is health, education, agriculture and defense, I'm sure that there are even more areas that we can explore and exploit, so that Guatemala can continue to enjoy the cooperation with Israel.

We are friends of Israel. Both our people and our government wish for you to have peace, for Israel and for the whole region, as well as stability, and we are also concerned by the threats that may undermine the security of the area. We are also convinced that the steps that you have taken as Prime Minister for peace are going in the right direction and we hope that it will continue to do so. It is a tradition for Guatemala, we have always been in favor of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, both in Latin America as well as in the rest of the world, and we hope that this concern that we can see today, which is a great threat to the State of Israel, will find a resolution as soon as possible.

And finally, I would like to say that we wish to express our thanks for the invitation to come to Israel. These two days in Israel I am sure that will strengthen the union and friendship between our two peoples.

Thank you very much.

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