ATHENS (Jan. 16)
Foreign Minister Karlor Papoulias has scotched speculation that Greece and Israel may be moving toward full diplomatic relations. He told Greek journalists at an interview in Belgrade that there is no question of de jure (formal) recognition of Israel by Greece, remarking “we have set certain conditions for this.”
The speculation arose following Papoulias’ four-hour meeting Tuesday with David Kimche, Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, his first with a ranking Israeli diplomat. Papoulias described Kimche’s visit to Greece as routine. He confirmed he had accepted in principle an invitation to visit Israel, but “whether I go depends on a number of factors, and perhaps those factors will be identical with the terms and conditions which Greece sets for a de jure recognition of Israel,” the Foreign Minister said.
Israel is represented in Greece only at the Consular level. Relations between the two countries have long been strained because of Greece’s outspoken support for the Palestinian cause in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Papoulias said his talk with Kimche was to convey the Greek government’s views on the “Mediterranean crisis.”
He said the extension of full diplomatic recognition to Israel was conditional on the total withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Arab lands occupied since 1967 and the commencement of negotiations between all parties concerned to find a just and permanent solution to the Middle East problem, which, he stressed, includes the Palestinian issue.
POSITION BASED ON ‘POLITICAL PRINCIPLES’
Papoulias said recognition of Israel by other states would not influence Greece “because our position is one of political principles.” He may have been referring to the reported imminent establishment of diplomatic relations between Spain and Israel. Spain has just joined the European Economic Community (EEC) of which Greece also is a member.
Papoulias disclosed that an invitation to visit Tel Aviv had been extended to him when Greece held the rotating presidency of the EEC’s Council of Foreign Ministers. He said he would have gone to Israel in that capacity at the time but “unfortunately other Europeans (EEC members) thought that Greece, playing such an intermediary role, would steal the honors from others… so they did not approve such a visit. “He said the invitation was renewed by Kimche.
Kimche also announced, after his meeting with Papoulias, that Greece has extended an official invitation to the Israeli Minister of Tourism, Avraham Sharir. Papoulias did not refer to that invitation at his press conference in Belgrade. Sharir would be the first Israeli minister to visit Greece in more than 20 years.