Stephen Harper first Canadian PM to visit to Israel in 14 years

Jan. 19, 2014 at 3:03 PM

JERUSALEM, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Stephen Harper arrived in Israel Sunday, marking the first visit by a Canadian prime minister since 2000, officials said.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he welcomes Harper as a friend to the Jewish people, the Jerusalem Post reported.

"Prime Minister Harper articulates a clear, courageous and moral stance in relation to the truth and the standards needed by the international community regarding Israel and the conflict here," he said. "I think he has taken a moral stand worthy of admiration, and I welcome him on behalf of the Israeli government and on behalf of all the citizens of Israel."

Netanyahu spoke of Canada's approach to anti-terrorism, anti-Semitism and Iran's nuclear program, which Israel and its allies fear has a goal of developing nuclear weapons.

"You and Canada stood unflinchingly on the right side of history," Netanyahu said. "We look forward to showing you our country, it's smaller than Canada, but has a huge heart."

After conferring with Netanyahu in Jerusalem Monday, Harper was to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Harper will also be the first Canadian prime minister to address the Knesset, the Post said.

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