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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Netanyahu disappointed by ally Modi's Jerusalem rejection

Ahead of the visit, India also cancelled a $500 million deal for Israeli Spike anti-tank missiles

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, at a ceremonial reception in New Delhi, India, on January 15, 2018. Adnan Abidi / Reuters
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, at a ceremonial reception in New Delhi, India, on January 15, 2018. Adnan Abidi / Reuters

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he was "disappointed" by India's refusal to back recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The Israeli leader arrived on Sunday at the head of the biggest business delegation he has taken on a foreign visit.

Mr Netanyahu told the India Today media group, in an interview released on Monday, that he has a "special relationship" with his counterpart, Narendra Modi.

But the run-up was clouded by India joining more than 100 countries at the UN in voting last month to condemn Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"Naturally I am disappointed but I think this visit is a testament to the fact that our relationship is moving forward on so many fronts," Mr Netanyahu said.

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Ahead of the visit, India also cancelled a US$500 million (Dh1.8 billion) deal for Israeli Spike anti-tank missiles.

Israel exports an average of $1bn of military equipment each year to India, but Mr Modi wants to end India's status as the world's top defence importer.

But Mr Netanyahu was again optimistic on the missile deal.

"I hope that this visit can help resolve this issue because I think there is a reasonable chance we can reach an equitable solution," he said.

Declaring that no details could be given until the end of his tour, Mr Netanyahu added: "Our defence relationship is quite significant and it encompasses many things.

"I think the keyword is defence. We want to defend ourselves. We are not aggressive nations, but very committed to making sure that noone can commit aggression against us."

Mr Netanyahu is the first Israeli leader to visit India in 15 years.

The prime minister and his wife Sara were welcomed at New Delhi airport by Mr Modi, who made history in July when he became the first Indian leader to visit Israel.

Mr Modi also stressed how the "historic" visit would "further cement the close friendship between our nations".