POLITICS
02/21/2012 12:08 EST | Updated 04/22/2012 05:12 EDT

Israeli PM Netanyahu To Make Stopover Ottawa Visit March 2

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make an official visit to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 2, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office announced Monday.

The Israeli embassy in Ottawa said Tuesday that Netanyahu's Ottawa visit is a stopover before heading to Washington. The Israelis are working on the details for his visit and could not offer more information on his itinerary at this time.

Netanyahu is expected to accept an invitation to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama during the Washington leg of his trip. Netanyahu will also speak at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, as is customary for the Israeli leader. The conference runs from March 4-6.

Both Obama and Harper previously met with Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September.

Netanyahu cut short a previous visit to Ottawa in May 2010, in the midst of international controversy following a raid by Israeli soldiers on a flotilla of ships bound for Gaza in defiance of Israel's ongoing blockade.

Netanyahu's early March visit will follow a high-profile Middle East tour by key Harper cabinet ministers in late January.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty met with top Israeli financial, trade and defence officials as well as key Palestinian officials.

Baird in particular spoke positively of Netanyahu's leadership and Israel's position in ongoing peace talks with the Palestinians. The foreign minister also spoke enthusiastically of his support for Israel at a key Israeli security conference and when interviewed by Israeli press during the trip.

An access to information request filed by The Canadian Press found that a section of a draft of Baird's speech planned for the United Nations General Assembly last September was edited to remove positive references to Canada's support for the Palestianian people.