Last updated: 7 May, 2012

Israel’s Peres discusses security with Canadian Prime Minister Harper

Israeli President Shimon Peres discussed the Jewish state’s security concerns with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday as his four-day state visit got underway with Iran the likely focus.

The two leaders spoke about Israel’s “uncertain security environment and the importance of diplomacy as the primary instrument for peace and security,” Harper spokesman Andrew MacDougall said in a statement.

Iran’s disputed nuclear program was likely at the center of the talks, though MacDougall did not provide further details about the meeting’s security topics. Peres’s office had previously indicated that he planned to discuss Iran’s nuclear efforts and Israel’s relations with its neighbors.

Israel, widely considered the sole if undeclared nuclear power in the Middle East, says a nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state and refuses to rule out a preemptive strike in a bid to halt it.

The international community has slapped a series of tough sanctions on Iran over widely-held suspicions it is seeking a militarized nuclear capability — a charge Tehran vehemently denies. Israel has expressed doubt the sanctions will work.

During their meeting, Peres and Harper also discussed the need for ties between the allies “to progress even further, especially in the areas of science, innovation and economic relations.”

Peres, 88, is set to meet other senior Canadian politicians and the provincial governors of Ontario and Quebec during his visit. He arrived on Sunday.

On Tuesday, Peres is scheduled to attend the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Royal Society of Canada and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

The Israeli presidency is largely ceremonial, and national policy is decided by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who visited Ottawa in March.