Israel Astonished by Greece’s Move to Improve Ties with PLO

Israel has reacted with “pain,” “sorrow” and “astonishment” to the news that the new Sociafist government in Greece headed by Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou has invited Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat to pay an official visit to Athens and that it intends to upgrade the PLO’s information office there.

A Foreign Ministry statement issued in Jerusalem last night expressed hope that the Greek government would reconsider the move. The statement recalled the Jewish people’s long-standing support for “Greece’s struggle for freedom and political independence” and referred to acts of terror committed on Greek soil in recent years by the PLO, the victims of which were both Israelis and Greeks.

Despite the official “astonishment,” government circles here were not in point of fact surprised at Papandreou’s move: they had expected it since the new Greek Premier has been consistent and outspoken in his support for a PLO role in any Mideast solution.

In his invitation, Papandreou asked Arafat to Athens “at your earliest convenience so that we may have a fruitful and personal exchange of views on matters of mutual interest, including the upgrading of your office here.” A Greek government spokesman said no parallel gesture would be made for the Israeli diplomatic mission, “nor was such ever considered.” (Related story, P.3.)

Arafat immediately announced his acceptance “with great appreciation” and noted that Papandreou’s letter to him had “included official recognition of the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” The prior Greek government led by the National Democratic Party (conservative) had always declined to extend this far-reaching recognition.

HOPES FOR CONTINUING RELATIONS WITH GREECE

While having anticipated a closening of ties between Greece and the PLO, Israeli officials have hoped that Israel’s own relations with Greece will not deteriorate as a result. They point out that many states with which Israel has cordial ties also recognize the PLO.

Israel and Greece have never had full diplomatic relations. As a gesture to the Arabs, Gree## has always kept the ties at the level of “diplomatic representative.” Nevertheless, there are commercial ties, and Greece (one of the few non-hostile states in the region) is a favorite holiday spot for Israeli tourists.

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