Israeli and Iranian ministers exchanged a rare handshake on Wednesday while attending a fair to promote tourist destinations in their respective nations, an Israeli official said.
The Israeli and Iranian tourism ministers were introduced at a reception hosted by the Spanish king in honor of a Madrid tourism fair. They then proceeded to shake hands, a spokesman for Israel's Tourism Minister Stas Mezeshnikov said.
"We are both from the same region and tourism can serve as a bridge for dialogue and to wider understanding," Mezeshnikov told his Iranian counterpart, his spokesman, Amnon Lieberman said.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel's destruction as a Jewish state, and has also stirred anger by publicly questioning whether the Nazi Holocaust in which six million Jews were killed across Europe, had indeed occurred.
Tensions have been aggravated by an Iranian nuclear program that Israel with Western backing has sought to stop and views as an existential threat. Tehran denies secretly developing a nuclear weapon.
Mezeshnikov, member of an utranationalist Israeli party, was quoted further telling the Iranian minister he identified as Hamid Baqaie:
"The Israeli people see the Iranian people as a friend, but Iran must stop its wild incitement against Israel and return to the family of nations."
Baqaie made no response, said Lieberman, reached by telephone, who said he had personally witnessed their meeting.
Separately, another senior Iranian official in charge of Tehran's booth at the Fitur tourist fair walked over to Mezeshnikov who had stopped by Iran's display, and invited him to visit the Islamic republic, Lieberman said.
"We have some wonderful natural and cultural sites that you are welcome to come and see," the Iranian, who wasn't further identified, told Mezeshnikov, the Israeli spokesman added.
Mezeshnikov was quoted as replying that he hoped "the day that Israelis can visit Iran will soon return, but this would require a regime change in Iran."
Israel had ties with Iran until the Islamic revolution in 1979 when these relations were ruptured.