President Alberto Fernández departs Argentina for Israel today as he embarks on his first international trip as head of state.
The Peronist leader will represent Argentina in the International Forum commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which also falls on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Fernández's trip to Jerusalem will be a quick one: he leaves at around 2pm today from Ezeiza International Airport and will return just four days later on Saturday, January 25. The following week he is scheduled to travel to the Vatican for a meet with Pope Francis on January 31.
The international trip comes on the heels of the five-year anniversary of the death of special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who days before had famously accused former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of attempting to cover up alleged Iranian involvement in the 1994 AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina) bombing, which left 85 dead.
Argentines are split over whether Nisman was murdered or committed suicide. Fernández de Kirchner, who today is Argentina's vice-president, will serve as head of state during Alberto Fernández's absence. She is expected to keep a low profile, according to reports, and will now work from the Casa Rosada.
Fernández will become only the second Argentine president to visit Israel, following in the footsteps of Carlos Menem in October 1991.
On Monday, at the instruction of Foreign Minister Felipe Solá, Argentina's designated Ambassador to the European Union (EU), Pablo Grinspun, represented the country alongside 34 other nations at the IHRA 2020 Ministerial Declaration, which reaffirmed global commitment to ensure the memory of the Holocaust survives.
"This document is very important to ratify the fight against anti-Semitism worldwide," said Solá in a statement. "For our country it is a new opportunity to confirm that Memory, Truth and Justice is a State policy, in line with the firm commitment to the full validity of human rights, as well as respect for minorities, cultural diversity and religious freedom."
Fernández will depart on a commercial Alitalia flight at 2pm local time, which will briefly stop in Rome before continuing on to Jerusalem.
After his arrival in Israel, he will join various heads of states and dignitaries at the forum, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, French leader Emmanuel Macron and Mike Pence, vice-president of the United States, followed by a private dinner for world leaders hosted by Israeli president Reuven Rivlin.
According to a report by Clarín, the Argentine delegation will include the First Lady Fabiola Yáñez, Foreign Minister Felipe Solá, Presidential Spokesperson Juan Pablo Biondi, Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof and national lawmaker Eduardo Valdés.
Fernández and Yáñez will be staying at the historic King David Hotel, located just outside of the Old City of Jerusalem, according to reports.
It is unknown whether Fernández will met privately with other world leaders, though sources at the Israeli Embassy in Buenos aires confirmed to the Times that the Argentine leader had scheduled a bilateral meeting with Rivlin for January 23, at 10am local time – his first on foreign soil. The Israeli president was responsible for sending out the invitations for the commemorations.
At 11.45am on Thursday, Fernández will leave for Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum, where representatives from more than 40 countries are expected to participate in a remembrance ceremony.
After the laying of floral wreaths for the victims, Fernández will then participate in a private reception for world leaders and high-level officials.
Other Argentine leaders, including the president of the DAIA (Delegación de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas), Jorge Knoblovits, AMIA President Ariel Eichbaum, and the president of the Latin American Jewish Congress, Adrián Werthein, have also been extended invitations for this event.
In an interview with FM Delta on Tuesday, Knoblovits described Fernández's visit as "very important."
"Argentina is the only country in Latin America that is part of the International Alliance for the Holocaust Remembrance," he said.
The country signed up to the alliance in 2002.