Greece, Israel look to new era of cooperation

The promise of closer cooperation on energy issues, particularly the exploitation of possible Greek hydrocarbon reserves, was one of several encouraging developments for the coalition government to emerge from Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s visit to Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Eight ministers accompanied the premier as Greece and Israel held their first-ever government-to-government meeting. The talks between Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis and his counterpart Uzi Landau focused on major energy infrastructure projects, including the construction of a gas pipeline between Israel, Cyprus and Greece, and the transport of liquefied gas with Greek ships.

“Greece and Cyprus are both members of the European Union and we believe they can be a stable mediator between Israel and Europe,” said Samaras. “Both countries have energy reserves and can work with Israel to tap these resources and to transport them.”

During his trip, Samaras met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem. His talks with Netanyahu appeared to take place in a warm atmosphere. They remarked that this was “just the start” of strategic cooperation between the two countries.

Netanyahu encouraged Israeli businessmen to seek out investment opportunities in Greece, suggesting that if they move quickly they will be able to maximize their profits. Protocols of cooperation were signed by the two sides on a series of issues, including tourism, combating crime, firefighting and even joint movie productions.

Netanyahu also took an opportunity during the joint press conference to reiterate his position on Iran. “The greatest threat to peace and security of the region and of our world is Iran’s pursuit of its nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu said. “Iran’s presidents might change, but that country’s nuclear program continues to expand.”

Greek sources said Iran did not come up during the two leaders’ talks.

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