ATHENS (Jul. 17)
The Greek government is inching toward the upgrading of diplomatic relations with Israel and may have sent up a trial balloon to test Arab reaction to the possible eventual establishment of full diplomatic relations with the Jewish State.
Such developments were indicated this week in the remarks of government spokesman Militiades Papaioannou who was questioned by reporters Wednesday about a story in the daily, Acropolis, that Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou is seriously considering the issue of full diplomatic relations with Israel.
The spokesman, replying, used the word “upgrading” with respect to Greek-Israel relations. Hitherto, government spokesmen would speak only of “improving” relations. Greek-Israel ties are presently at the consular level.
Another government official, who asked not to be identified, said of the item in Acropolis, “Most probably the story was put there at governmental request to test the Arab, and why not, the Israel reactions.”
CERTAIN CONDITIONS CITED
Papaioannou noted that “The Greek government has established certain conditions for complete restoration of diplomatic relations with Israel, such as the withdrawal of Israel forces from the occupied territories and the opening of a dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization.”
He added: “Our positions have not changed, but that does not mean we cannot proceed with other kinds of procedure for improving relations with Israel which could be characterized as an upgrading in relations. “He gave as examples of “upgrading” the recent visit to Greece by Israel’s Minister of Tourism, Avraham Sharir and the pending reciprocal visit to Israel by the Deputy Minister of National Economy, Takis Roumeliotis.
Israeli diplomatic sources in Greece observed that the story in Acropolis “came out of the blue” and has raised many questions with respect to its timing and purpose. The sources said that although relations are being improved, Israel could hardly accept the conditions demanded by Greece.
“Those conditions remind us of Bangladesh, Pakistan and other Moslem countries. From a non-Moslem country we would expect a different position,” the Israeli sources said.