French President Hollande arrives in Israel

Nov. 17, 2013 at 8:13 AM
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TEL AVIV, Israel, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- French President Francoise Hollande arrived in Israel for a three day visit Sunday, his first since taking office 18 months ago.

Hollande, accompanied by a large delegation of parliamentarians and government and business officials, was treated to an official state ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

"The citizens of Israel owe an historic debt to France on its helping build Israel's defense forces after the state was formed," The Jerusalem Post quoted President Shimon Peres telling Hollande shortly after his arrival.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised France for its diplomatic opposition to Iran's nuclear program and its position on Islamic extremism, the newspaper said.

"Israel sees France as a true friend. ... You are a leader with principles and much humanity," Netanyahu said.

"I want to bring you a message of support from France based on joint history, suffering, pain and tragedy," Hollande said. With 150,000 French Jews living in Israel, I have come to give a new push to our ties, especially in business and cultural spheres."

The Iranian nuclear threat, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and events in Syria are expected to be the key topics of discussion between the French president and senior Israeli government officials.

Hollande will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah Monday and will address the Knesset before attending a state dinner hosted by Peres. On Tuesday, he will visit the grave sites of the victims of the 2012 terror attack in Toulouse, participate in an economic meeting and meet French Israelis at Tel Aviv University before departing.

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