President Shimon Peres and Colombian counterp
President Shimon Peres and Colombian counterpReuters

President Shimon Peres on Monday said that Israel would help develop Colombia's economy, as he welcomed his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos who is on an official visit to the region.

The two leaders also took part in the signing of a raft of agreements between the two countries.

"I welcome you here as an important and influential leader of Latin America," Peres told Santos at a reception in his Jerusalem residence. "You are a true friend of Israel and your visit in country will provide fresh impetus to the relations and cooperation in the fields of security, science, technology and agriculture."

"Israel will be more than happy to assist Colombia and provide any knowledge that we can to help develop the Colombian economy," Peres said in remarks relayed by his office in a statement, according to the AFP news agency.

Santos told Peres Colombia was facing serious challenges with respect to terror and war, the statement read, adding he was in Israel "on behalf of the 47 million citizens of Colombia who wished to express their deep sense of friendship to Israel".

The two then took part in the signing of a free trade agreement, an innovation agreement and an aviation agreement between their states, the statement said.

Colombia is considered Israel's firmest ally in South America.

On Tuesday Santos will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah. He will be leaving on Wednesday.