Venezuelan President Chavez
Venezuelan President ChavezIsrael news photo: (file)

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos cancelled a scheduled meeting with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday. The meeting was called off in order to allow Moratinos to meet with a different senior official – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Moratinos, who was visiting Israel, flew back to Spain to meet Chavez after the latter arrived earlier than planned, Spanish officials explained. Officials said Moratinos had cancelled meetings with Palestinian Authority officials as well.

Chavez is known as a staunch supporter of Iran and a fierce critic of Israel. Prior to his visit to Spain, Chavez had visited Syria, where he called Israel “genocidal” and “anti-peace” during a press conference with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The day before, Chavez gave an interview to a French paper in which he accused Israel of committing genocide against Arabs in Gaza.

Chavez also visited Iran this week, and promised to supply that country with gasoline if Iran faces sanctions over its refusal to freeze its nuclear program.

Lieberman's aides downplayed the Spanish minister's early departure. Lieberman and Moratinos have spoken by phone throughout the week, and will continue to work together, they said.