BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The new president of Uruguay appointed the country’s former ambassador to Israel as head of the Foreign Ministry.
Dr. Tabare Vazquez on Sunday named Bernardo Greiver as secretary general of the ministry — a move that was seen as signaling closer Uruguay-Israel ties. Greiver, who is Jewish, has spoken publicly in recent years in favor of strong ties between Israel and Uruguay.
The new Uruguayan foreign minister, Nir Novoa, said in a radio interview that Greiver was tapped “because he knows the office, he is a diplomat with experience and is a hard worker.” Novoa told Universal Radio that he “talked with members of the Jewish community and they are pleased with this appointment.
“Without any doubt, this can be considered as a signal to Israel,” he said. “Uruguay had a very important role in the creation of the State of Israel and we need to continue on this path.”
In 1947, Uruguay voted at the United Nations in favor of declaring a Jewish state in Israel. The other two countries in the South American cone, Argentina and Chile, abstained.
Greiver succeeds Luis Almagro, who served between 1991 and 1996 as the Uruguayan ambassador to Iran.
Recent events have shown some tension related to the Iranian presence in the South American region and especially in Uruguay.
President Jose Alberto “Pepe” Mujica, who stepped down Sunday, said during Israel’s 50-day operation in Gaza over the summer that Israel was committing “genocide” against the Palestinians, as did Almagro. They also said “Gaza is a big concentration camp.”
Vazquez, who is from the same party as Mujica, when asked if he agreed with the president, said that Israel “was not committing genocide.”
Vazquez, 74, is serving as president for the second time. During his first administration, 2005 to 2010, he made an official three-day visit to Israel as a guest of then-President Shimon Peres. An oncologist, he also traveled to Israel in 1982, representing Uruguay in an international seminar about cancer research.
One month ago, Uruguay said it has “opened the door” to Israel’s help with security following a suspected bombing attempt near Israel’s embassy, for which Israel implicated Iran.