Defense ties with Israel to be fortified

Greece and Israel are eyeing closer cooperation on defense issues, which could include the co-manufacturing of defense systems, it has emerged following President Shimon Peres?s visit to Athens this week.

Peres spent three days in Greece and Greek government sources have suggested that the talks he held during his visit were very ?productive.? Events in Syria, which have led to a number of warships being sent to the Southeastern Mediterranean, have prompted the two sides to consider ways or working closer together, sources said.

The head of the Israeli Ministry of Defense?s Defense Export and Defense Cooperation Agency (SIBAT), Shmaya Avieli, is due to visit Greece by the end of the month. Avieli, in charge of Israel?s arms program, is expected to examine the possibility of the two countries working together to produce defense systems.

In an interview with Jane?s Defence Weekly last year, Avieli said Israel was looking for new emerging markets and overseas joint ventures in an effort to offset potential losses caused by the global economic downturn.

Sources said the Israeli side has already expressed an interest in the capabilities of Hellenic Defense Systems (EAS) and the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB) and that there will likely be an agreement on the co-manufacturing of shells and armored vehicles.

Defense Ministry officials said that there is also interest on the Israeli side in the construction of navy vessels, which might help the government solve the problem of what to do with the Skaramanga shipyards west of Athens.

Greece also wants Israel to provide expertise on military service, as the government considers whether to extend the time that conscripts have to serve in the armed forces.