Argentine President Cristina Fernandez on Thursday defended her country’s widely criticized decision to partner with Iran in an investigation into a 1994 bombing that many believe was carried out by Iranian agents, Reuters reported.

“The memorandum of understanding we have signed is a step toward unblocking a case that has been paralyzed for 19 years,” she said in an appeal to Congress to approve a “truth commission” initiative that has drawn harsh condemnation from Israel and the local Jewish community.

“What I want to avoid… is the pain of the [victims’] families and the country’s shame by finding the path to break the deadlock,” Fernandez said. “Dialogue is a part of Argentina’s foreign policy.”

The joint Argentine-Iranian probe, announced last week, was hailed as “historic” by Fernandez but decried by Argentinian Jewish groups.

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman reportedly rebuked the Israeli ambassador to Buenos Aires during a recent meeting, castigating Israel for demanding an explanation for the recently announced joint Argentine-Iranian probe into the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center, which killed 85 and injured hundreds.

Timerman summoned Ambassador Dorit Shavit for a “difficult, intense and unpleasant” meeting on January 31, according to Foreign Ministry sources quoted in Haaretz. In the meeting, he “sharply criticized” Israel for interfering in Argentina’s affairs and implied that Israel’s interest in the bombing “encourages anti-Semitism” by implying Jewish Argentinians have split loyalties.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.