Thursday, February 10, 2011
Greece vows to help Israel gain access to European markets
Papandreou tells visiting U.S. Jewish leaders that such a move would be vital for both Israel's economy and strategic security.
Greece's prime minister on Thursday promised visiting Jewish American leaders that Athens would help Israel forge closer ties with the European Union, particularly through gaining access to European markets.
"We see the (European) market expanding to the Mediterranean and certainly we would like to integrate Israel into this European market," said Prime Minister George Papandreou. "I think this is vital for Israel's economy but also for its strategic security."
Greece and Israel - anxious to build regional alliances with Egypt in turmoil and following a public spat with Turkey - have launched a series of negotiations in recent months for potential cooperation deals.
Papandreou said Greece was seeking cooperation in tourism, agriculture, defense and hi-tech innovation, and said the two countries would hold a joint cabinet meeting in Israel in April.
Officials in Israel and Greece say also the two countries are holding preliminary talks on potential energy deals involving newly-discovered Israeli offshore natural gas deposits.
On Thursday, Papandreou's ministers of foreign affairs, investment, public order, tourism and defense held meetings with a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations but their presentations at a downtown Athens hotel were closed to the media.
Greece has traditionally close ties with the Palestinians and Arab countries and only established diplomatic ties with the Jewish State in 1990.