NEWS

Stephen Harper arrives for week-long Middle East visit

01/19/2014 07:33 EST | Updated 03/21/2014 05:59 EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a sizable entourage has arrived at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv for his first official state visit to Israel. The six-day Middle East tour will includes stops in the West Bank and Jordan.

His plane left Ottawa Saturday evening, with six cabinet ministers on board, along with 30 business people and community leaders.

Harper and his wife, Laureen, were greeted by Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign affairs minister, and by Vivian Bercovici, Canada's ambassador-designate to the Jewish state.

They were next scheduled to leave for Jerusalem, where a welcoming ceremony will be held at Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu's office.

"I've spoken to a number of officials. They're really rolling out the red carpet," CBC's Saša Petricic reported from Jerusalem. "They're pointing out that they're going to have several receptions, which is unprecedented for a prime minister."

"They really have been very happy with the support that they've gotten from Canada, from this prime minister of Canada, who has long been a supporter of Israel," Petricic said.

Harper will address Israel's parliament, the Knesset, on Monday, making history as the first Canadian prime minister to do so. It will be the prime minister's first visit to Israel since winning power in 2006.

Spokesman Jason MacDonald says Harper will promote commercial relations, as well as peace and security in the region, when he meets Israeli leaders and, later in the week, the King of Jordan.

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