Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his counterpart in Singapore, during the first visit to the country by an Israeli prime minister.
In a statement issued after the meeting Monday with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Netanyahu called Loong’s visit to Israel in April, the first by a Singapore leader, “an historic visit” and said that he was “following in your footsteps.”
"Israel is pivoting towards Asia in a very clear and purposeful way," he told a press conference and dinner event, echoing language used by former U.S. president Barack Obama, according CNBC Asia.
“I believe that Israel and Singapore are kindred spirits. We’re small nations that have become in many areas global powers, and I believe that our cooperation makes us even more successful, cooperation in every field,” Netanyahu said. He cited a joint R&D fund that has already funded 150 projects for Israeli and Singapore companies working together in a variety of fields.
Israel and Singapore established diplomatic relations in 1969.
Upon his arrival in Singapore early on Monday, Netanyahu was met by Loong and a military honor guard. He met with Singapore President Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yam, in a meeting also attended by ministers from both countries. Among the topics discussed were deepening bilateral cooperation in technology in order to overcome common challenges as well assistance to African countries in the fields of technology and initiatives, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. Netanyahu raised the issue of opening a direct air route between the two countries and invited the president to visit Israel.
Netanyahu visited a local synagogue and meet with representatives of Singapore’s small Jewish community later on Sunday.
Singapore requested a low-profile visit, the Jerusalem Post reported Monday, because it is concerned about angering is neighbors, the Muslim majority countries of Malaysia and Indonesia.
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