JERUSALEM (May. 18)
Israel and Greece solidified their recently improved relations on the arrival here Monday of Constantine Mitsotakis, the first prime minister of Greece to pay an official visit to the Jewish state.
He was welcomed at the Rose Garden by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who expressed appreciation for the change of Greek policy with respect to Israel and the Middle East.
“Now we must work together to ensure that these relations will flourish,” Shamir said.
The Greek leader, responding in French, observed that the two peoples have always enjoyed cordial relations and expressed confidence that his visit would promote peace in the region.
Mitsotakis was responsible for upgrading Greece’s relations with Israel to full diplomatic status. He extended de jure recognition to Jerusalem in April 1990, a month after taking office.
Prior to that, the atmosphere in Athens had been chilly toward Israel, especially during the Socialist regime of Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou from 1981 to 1989. Relations were maintained only at the consular level.
On the other hand, Greece had close ties with the Arab world, and its actions and policies openly favored the Palestinian cause.
Apart from the change of government in Athens, global events of recent years have brought Israel and Greece closer.
Both feel threatened by the advance of Islamic fundamentalism as Turkey, a traditional adversary of Greece, and Iran, an avowed enemy of Israel, vie for influence in the newly independent Moslem republics of the former Soviet Union.
Greece had not always perceived the danger of Islamic fundamentalism. Greek leaders credit the Israeli ambassador in Athens, David Sasson, with awakening them.
Greece, a member of the European Community, is now pursuing a policy of cooperation with Israel in many spheres, including the economic, military, international policy, agriculture and tourism.
Another diplomatic event in Jerusalem was the visit of the foreign minister of Angola, Pedro de Castro dos Santos van Dunam, to finalize the establishment of full diplomatic relations and sign an economic agreement.
Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy was in Luanda, the Angolan capital, last month to negotiate the renewed diplomatic ties.