01/20/2014 06:33 EST | Updated 03/22/2014 05:59 EDT

Stephen Harper announces $66M in aid to Palestinians

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced a new $66-million aid program for the Palestinian Authority during his visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he met with leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Ottawa says the money will help advance the peace process, promote security and deliver humanitarian assistance.

Canada was contributing $300 million over five years, or $60 million a year, in a program that expired in June.

Since the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993 and the creation of the Palestinian Authority, Canada has provided more than $650 million in development assistance for the West Bank and Gaza.

Harper is making his first visit as prime minister to the Middle East and is being received as a "best friend" to Israel. Later Monday, he was scheduled to address the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

He started the day with a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. He and his wife, Laureen, were given a warm welcome to Israel at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

"He is receiving a very warm welcome here, but not so warm …in the West Bank," CBC's Sasa Petricic reported.

"It was very official. It was very proper …. But there is not a lot of warmth on the other side."