Argentina's minister of foreign affairs, Hector Timerman
Hector Timerman Photo by AP
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Argentina's first Jewish foreign minister, Hector Timerman, has hailed his recent appointment as a "symbol of progress" for a society historically plagued by anti-Semitism.

Timerman, a 56-year-old U.S.-educated human rights activist, was named minister of foreign affairs earlier this week after predecessor Jorge Taiana resigned due to unspecified personal motives.

"The appointment of a Jewish foreign minister is a symbol of significant progress in Argentine society, a result of all we have learned since the end of the dictatorship," Timerman told local media this week.

The country's Jewish minority was once subjected to extreme hatred, but Argentine society is no longer anti-Semitic, said Timerman, "Maybe one day we'll even get to see a Jewish chief of staff in the Argentine army," he added.

Hector Timerman is a former human rights activist and journalist like his father Jacobo Timerman, who was arrested by the military and exiled after two and a half years of torture.

Timerman's father, who wrote about his ordeal in "Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number", claimed his captors had been anti-Semitic and accusing local Jewish leaders of failing to fight the systemic anti-Jewish sentiment within the government.

Hector Timerman fled Argentina in 1978 and went on to study international relations at Columbia University in 1981. He returned to his native land in 1984. Timerman was named Argentina's Consul General in New York in July 2004 and was appointed ambassador to the United States in December 2007.