Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech at a Cyber security conference in Tel Aviv, Israel January 31, 2017. (Reuters photo)
JERUSALEM, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday backtracked on a statement seen as praising U.S. President Donald Trump's plan for a wall along the Mexican border, following strong protest from Mexico City.
In a tweet on his personal account on Saturday evening, Netanyahu wrote "President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel's southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea."
The tweet, referring to a high-tech fence between Israel and Egypt to prevent African asylum seekers from entering Israel from the Sinai desert, was retweeted 53,000 times.
The tweet sparked anger in Mexico, with the foreign ministry expressing "profound astonishment, rejection and disappointment over Prime Minister Netanyahu's message."
"Mexico is a friend of Israel and should be treated as such by its prime minister," the ministry said in a statement.
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray urged Israel to apologize and clarify its position on the controversial wall. "We are expecting a clarification, a rectification."
"I think that an apology would be something appropriate in this case," Videgaray told Mexican Televisa network. "We hope that the government of Israel has sensitivity to correct this position."
Netanyahu's remark on Saturday was also criticized within Israel, with Interior Minister Arye Dery urging him to apologize to prevent a looming diplomatic crisis.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu said his tweet "did not comment about U.S.-Mexico relations," adding the incident was a "misunderstanding."
"I did point out the remarkable success of Israel's security fence," he told an annual cyber conference in Tel Aviv. "We've had, and will continue to have, good relations with Mexico."
"I've had a long, fruitful and very friendly relationship with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and it will continue," Netanyahu said.