Peres thanks Greece for stopping Gaza-bound flotilla

Israel President Shimon Peres has thanked his Greek counterpart, Karolos Papoulias, for Greece’s recent decision to stop a Gaza-bound flotilla from departing from the country’s ports.

Speaking after a meeting between the two senior politicians, Peres recognized Greece’s contribution in the campaign against terrorism, reports said on Monday.

The Greek president is currently on a three-day visit to the Mediterranean country with the aim of strengthening diplomatic and commercial ties between the two states. Papoulias, a former foreign minister with the Socialist party, is being accompanied on his trip by Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis, Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos and Deputy Environment and Energy Minister Yiannis Maniatis.

Reports said Papoulias discussed Greece’s painstaking efforts to avoid default.

Greek authorities earlier this month banned a 10-boat aid flotilla from setting sail from Greece in a bid to violate the Israeli blockade of the Hamas-run territory.

Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

Greek officials cited safety concerns for the ban. Nine Turkish activists were killed last year after Israeli commandos raided a six-ship flotilla on its way to Gaza.

Some analysts say the flotilla ban reflects a strategic shift in Greek relations with Israel. Greece, once a warm supporter of the Palestinian cause and a vocal critic of Israeli policies, has over the past few years sought to mend ties ? a move also prompted by Turkey’s worsening relations with the Jewish state.

Greece only established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1990.