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Israel's Lieberman meets Droutsas, begins two-day visit to Athens

Δημοσίευση 13 Ιανουαρίου 2011, 12:58 / Ανανεώθηκε 27 Ιουνίου 2013, 14:55
Israel's Lieberman meets Droutsas,  begins two-day visit to Athens
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Ways of "deepening" and improving the institutional frame-work for bilateral cooperation between Greece and Israel will be at the centre of talks that visiting Israeli Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman will have with Greece's leadership during a two-day visit to Athens beginning on Wednesday.

Ways of "deepening" and improving the institutional frame-work for bilateral cooperation between Greece and Israel will be at the centre of talks that visiting Israeli Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman will have with Greece's leadership during a two-day visit to Athens beginning on Wednesday.

His first meeting was with Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas but he will also meet the Greek president Karolos Papoulias and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, as well as Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

Prior to Lieberman's visit, Papandreou had a telephone discussion on Tuesday night with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during which they agreed to set up a joint Greece-Israel ministerial council and also discussed the next steps in the process of enhancing their bilateral ties that was commenced last summer.

Droutsas stressed that cooperation between the two sides will have multiple benefits for Greece and Israel but also the surrounding region.

Among others, the two sides have agreed to cooperate in setting up a regional rapid deployment unit to provide assistance during natural disasters that hit the region, such as the recent massive fires in Haifa.

Droutsas also underlined his recent decision to appoint Antonis Nikolaidis as Greece's special envoy for the Middle East in a bid to further strengthen Greece's role and presence in the area.

In statements after their meeting, Lieberman highlighted cooperation between the two sides in tourism but noted, in response to questions, that cooperation in natural gas would require "detailed study". He underlined the value of economic cooperation that he said would be the "challenge of the years to come" and that this should begin as soon as possible.

Concerning Greece's role in the Middle East, Lieberman said that this would be successful "if Greece can contribute to strengthening Israel's ties with its neighbouring countries".

Regarding the planned Greece-Israel ministerial council, the Israeli foreign minister said that this would probably hold its first meeting in three months, while Droutsas said that the first meeting would take place in Israel and deal with issues such as culture, tourism, agriculture, energy and high technology.

Replying to questions about the timing of the effort to strengthen ties with Israel, when the country was under fire worldwide for demolishing the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem, Droutsas noted that "Greece's views do not coincide with those of Israel on all issues."

"But we must talk openly also, where our opinions diverge," he added.

He stressed that Athens uses every opportunity to express its desire for a fair and viable solution to the Palestinian problem, as well as its concern that the peace process was at a standstill.

"All sides must refrain from unilateral actions, which must not happen and are not even in Israel's interests," he stressed, in order for dialogue to make progress.

"Because Greece has consistently followed a policy based on principles, which also constitutes our countries added value in the region, for this reason Greece has gained the trust of the Arab world but also Israel. Few countries can claim that they have this advantage," he added.

PM Papandreou and Israeli FM

to meet on Thursday

Prime Minister George Papandreou will be meeting Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Avigor Lieberman at the Maximos Mansion on Thursday morning.

Papandreou will then be meeting the directorate of the Union of Greek Shipowners, while in the afternoon he will be meeting European Commission Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier.