Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani found themselves wing by wing Wednesday after their planes were parked alongside each other at the Zurich airport in Switzerland.
The two Middle Eastern leaders, who landed in Zurich en route to the World Economic Forum which kicked off in Davos later on Wednesday, did not cross paths.
An Israeli journalist, however, called out to a passing Iranian delegate, and received a hearty response: “How are you?” the journalist cried in English, according to Bloomberg. “Fine, thank you. How are you?” one of the Iranians replied.
The Davos conference is the first time that the Israeli leader and his Iranian counterpart have attended the same event simultaneously. In September their itineraries at the UN General Assembly in New York did not overlap.
“Would you meet with somebody who calls for your annihilation?” Netanyahu told Canadian television station CTV this week, when asked whether he was willing to meet with Rouhani at Davos. “If Rouhani said that, OK, we recognize the Jewish state; we, Iran, are prepared to have peace with Israel [and that] Israel will be here forever — that would pique my interest, in Davos or anywhere else. But so far, they say the opposite.”
The Zurich aircraft parking arrangements provided a rare opportunity to photograph the Iranian and Israeli flags alongside one another, on the tails of the Iranian and El Al jets.
At the prestigious economic forum, President Shimon Peres, who flew in with Netanyahu, will receive the “Spirit of Davos” award for his promotion of global trade over the past two decades.
Rouhani will deliver a half-hour speech about “Iran in the World” on Thursday at 11:10 a.m. (Israeli time), four hours before Netanyahu is due to address the same audience. Also on Thursday, Peres is scheduled to host a press conference, during which he will respond to Rouhani’s speech, and talk about the peace process and other regional issues.
While Netanyahu is expected to hold several meetings with political leaders, his appearance in Davos will focus on promoting Israel’s status as an economic powerhouse. “He will present the Israeli cyber-industry, which is among the world’s leaders, and will also hold a series of working meetings with heads of state and corporate leaders in order to encourage investment in Israeli high-tech and other sectors of the Israeli economy,” according to a statement released by his office.
On Monday, the founder of the World Economic Forum said talks over the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and the future of Syria and Iran will occur on the sidelines of the annual gathering for political and financial elites.
Klaus Schwab said in an interview with the Associated Press that there will be crossover between the forum’s 2,500 participants and the more than 30 foreign ministers attending the start of the Syria peace conference several hours away in Montreux, Switzerland.
Other pressing topics that will likely be touched upon, Schwab said, include climate change, unemployment and the disparity between the rich and poor that could lead to a “lost generation” of youth and social unrest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.