ATHENS (May. 19)
Israel and Greece are expected to sign an agreement for a joint tourism advertising campaign in the United States during the five-day visit here of Israel’s Minister of Tourism, Avraham Sharir, which began Sunday.
Sharir is the first Israeli Minister to visit Greece in an official capacity since Abba Eban’s visit in 1962 as Minister of Education. He was greeted at the airport by Pabliotis Roumeliotis, Undersecretary of National Economy. Sharir expressed hope that his trip would be a turning point in Israeli-Greek relations. The two countries have never exchanged Ambassadors and Israel is represented here on the Consular level only.
Roumeliotis responded that Greece is willing to cooperate with Israel in the areas of tourism and economy. Sharir is scheduled to meet with the Minister of Economy, Kostas Simitis, and with Karolos Papoulias, the Foreign Minister. He is carrying a message from Premier Shimon Peres to Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, but it is not known whether he will deliver it in person or through other channels.
Both Greece and Israel have suffered a sharp decline in American tourism this year because of the terrorist threat and the weakening of the U.S. Dollar. In addition to a common addition to a common advertising campaign, Greece is expected to increase the foreign currency allowance for its citizens who visit Israel. It will be raised to the levels allowed by the other European Economic Community (EEC) countries.
Sharir will visit the island of Rhodes, one of Greece’s major tourist attractions. His talks at the Foreign Ministry, however, are not expected to result in any major changes on bilateral and Middle East issues. Nevertheless, Sharir’s trip has some diplomatic significance. It is a direct result of the visit here last January by David Kimche, Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.