SANTIAGO, Chile, April 15, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An AJC senior leadership delegation just concluded a two-day visit to Santiago.
The 17-member group was led by AJC Executive Director David Harris and included Dina Siegel Vann, Director of AJC's Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs, as well as AJC lay leaders from Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, Miami, New York, Westchester, and El Salvador.
During the visit, the delegation met with senior Chilean government officials, including an hour-long session with Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz; other diplomats responsible for the U.S., Middle East, Latin America, and human rights in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; several Members of the Chilean Congress; the Israeli Ambassador; and the U.S. Deputy Ambassador and five of his embassy colleagues.
The visit also featured a meeting with leaders of the Chilean Jewish community, with which AJC has enjoyed a long-standing association agreement.
Among the principal topics discussed were: (i) U.S.-Chilean relations, which are strong and getting stronger; (ii) Chile's key role in Latin American regional security and economic cooperation; (iii) Chilean engagement with the Middle East, with a particular focus on the country's current seat on the UN Security Council; and (iv) Chilean-Israeli bilateral ties, which have existed for decades and prospered in several fields of mutual interest.
"We were delighted to see our friends in the Chilean Jewish community," said Harris, who has visited Chile on numerous occasions. "We continue to admire their leadership, determination and vision. They have contributed greatly to Chile's remarkable development, while nurturing an impressively vibrant Jewish community."
Chile is also home to approximately 400,000 people of Palestinian descent, most of whom are Christians and immigrated about a century ago, as the Ottoman Empire was collapsing. The community is considered the largest outside of the Middle East, and has achieved prominence in Chilean society. Recently, the traditionally cordial ties between the Jewish and Palestinian communities have been frayed, as a widespread anti-Israel campaign has taken root in important segments of Chile's Palestinian population.
"During our government meetings, we expressed admiration for Chile's striking growth, making it one of Latin America's greatest success stories, as well as appreciation for its defense of democratic values and contributions to peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts in its region and beyond," said Harris. "At the same time, we conveyed our deep disappointment that Chile recalled its ambassador from Israel last summer, an act we did not believe was justified by the circumstances of a Hamas-triggered war against Israel, and the brazen use of civilians as human shields by the terrorist group in Gaza.
"Moreover, we voiced regret that Chile voted in favor of a resolution in the UN Security Council, in December, that we, like the United States and several other nations, believed was biased against Israel and, despite its stated purpose, would have set back prospects for relaunching the peace process. Fortunately, the measure did not get the required nine votes to pass."
AJC has partnered with the Chilean Jewish Community to bring Chilean political, academic, and media leaders to Israel through Project Interchange. In addition, AJC's Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs maintains close contact with Chilean diplomats serving abroad.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee