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Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, following his meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz (Athens, 31 October 2019)
“It was a great pleasure to welcome the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, Israel Katz, to Athens today, and thus I had the opportunity to reciprocate his warm hospitality during my visit to Israel last July.
Our close and very friendly relations are reflected in the content of our talks on regional and bilateral issues. I was very interested to hear the views of the friendly country of Israel on the developments in the region – especially in Syria and the wider Middle East.
With regard to Syria, it remains absolutely critical to safeguard the country’s territorial integrity and find a political solution to the Syrian problem. In this direction, Greece supports the efforts of the UN Special Envoy, Mr. Pedersen, with whom I met in Luxembourg a few weeks ago, as you know.
My colleague and I also discussed Turkey’s violations in the wider region – in the Aegean, in the Eastern Mediterranean and in Syria. This conduct undermines stability, development and peace. We stressed the need to respect international law as the foundation for the peaceful coexistence of states and the prosperity of all the countries in the region.
We jointly reaffirmed the great importance we attach to the development of our relations both bilaterally and in the context of trilateral and other cooperation mechanisms in the region.
We underscored our strong shared interest in energy cooperation and exploitation of the natural gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean and in other areas, such as south of Crete.
We jointly reaffirmed our interest in the East Med natural gas pipeline, which will be the fruit of the strategic energy cooperation between Israel-Cyprus-Greece and Italy, and in promoting electricity connectivity between Greece, Cyprus and Israel, which remains an endeavour of great importance.
We applauded the development and further strengthening of our defence cooperation, which is now very well established and is being upgraded continuously through frequent joint exercises aimed at meeting the challenges undermining the stability and security of our region.
Just yesterday, the chief of our defence general staff carried out a very successful visit to Israel, and four Greek F-16s are in Israel for joint exercises.
Of course, of catalytic importance in the development of Greek-Israeli relations are the two countries’ relations with our close ally the United States of America. Thus, the upgrading of the Defence Cooperation Agreement that I and my U.S. counterpart, Mike Pompeo, signed contributes to the development and strengthening of Greek-Israeli relations as well.
We also underscored our shared interest in developing cooperation in many other sectors, including investments, innovation, technological development, tourism, trade and start-ups. The Minister also presented to me an ambitious Israeli plan for rail connection of the Mediterranean with the Arab world.
I also want to say how pleased I am that Greece is now the most popular destination for Israeli tourists. I thanked the Minister for this. Close contact between our citizens has strengthened the understanding and friendship between our peoples, which, to a large extent – allow me to say – must be attributed to Konstantinos Mitsotakis, who fully restored Greek-Israeli diplomatic relations only a week after he became prime minister.
And I also had the opportunity to tell the Minister something on a more personal note regarding my childhood years, given that I grew up in the Jewish Quarter of Corfu. My father’s shop was there and that's also where my childhood friends were. The first friends I ever made.
Ladies and gentlemen, to summarise, Greek-Israeli relations are very close and important to both countries, and we look forward to continuous upgrading and deepening of our cooperation.
So I would once again like to thank my friend the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel for visiting Greece today, and I give him the floor.
Thank you very much.”