In a first-ever visit to Israel by Ecuador's leader, President Guillermo Lasso announced on Thursday his country will open a representative office in Jerusalem and back Israel in UN votes.
Lasso, accompanied by Ecuador's foreign affairs and foreign trade minister, brought a delegation of about 100 government officials and entrepreneurs for a series of meetings with Israeli officials and businesspeople.
The president signed memoranda of understanding with Israeli leaders on economic and scientific cooperation. His visit is also aimed at securing Israeli aid and promoting defense cooperation, in light of the deteriorating security situation in Ecuador.
66-year-old Lasso represents the conservative right. He rose to power in May 2021, after 15 years during which Ecuador was ruled by left-wing parties.
Since then, the ties between two countries – who have had diplomatic relations for decades – grew stronger. Ecuador has already began showing support for Israel at the United Nations, and Lasso's remarks during his visit appear to cement Ecuador's position.
During the visit, Lasso inaugurated the Ecuadorian Innovation and Commercial Representative Office in Jerusalem and met with Prime Minister Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai.
"We want to strengthen our international ties in the fields of politics, economics, culture, and also tourism. In the field of commerce specifically, we are looking to develop a negotiations process toward a free trade agreement between our two countries," Lasso said during his meeting with President Isaac Herzog.
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Lasso has championed the fight against organized crime and the drug cartels. Eleven months into his party's rule, recent weeks have seen a rise in violence, particularly in the northwest.
Over the last week of April, four ministers resigned from the government – those of defense, agriculture, human rights, and energy and mines. Replacements for all save the human rights portfolio have been appointed since.