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Dispute in Christian Quarter Strains Delicate Israeli Relations with Greece

Greek-Israeli relations have been strained at an inopportune time by the disputed settlement of 150 Jews in a building owned by the Greek Orthodox Church in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.

While government spokesman Vyron Poly-doras insisted the events in Jerusalem will not affect the new conservative regime’s decision to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, he made clear that the government wants Israel to promptly enforce an eviction order against the settlers, pending since April 12.

Since the incident erupted, threatening telegrams, telephone calls and fax messages have been received at the Israeli mission in Athens and by prominent members of the Jewish community.

Diodoros II, the Greek Orthodox patriarch in Jerusalem, severely criticized the Athens government in a radio interview Saturday for its muted reaction to the affair.

“It is a shame that while these acts are taking place, the Greek government is talking about recognizing Israel,” the patriarch said.

Israel’s diplomatic representative here, Moshe Gilboa, met for two hours here with Diodoros’ representative, Archbishop Irineos.

Gilboa, who holds the rank of ambassador but has represented Israel only at the consular level up to now, stressed that the Israeli government had nothing to do with the incident. He said Israel is doing everything it can to contain it within its proper proportions.

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