Israel, Greece pledge to ramp up defense ties

ATHENS (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak pledged to ramp up defense cooperation with Greece at a meeting with his Greek counterpart in Athens.

Barak and Greek Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Tuesday discussed defense cooperation for 2012, including cooperative air maneuvers, as well as the possibility of Greece producing the Israeli-made SPICE 1000/2000 weapons system.

Avramopoulos said Greece is committed to deepening relations wtih Israel.

“The relations have been delayed for a long time," he said, adding that “our cooperation is peaceful and honorable and is not against anyone. On the contrary, it can become a source of enrichment of the two people and also for other countries in the region.”  

Barak thanked the Greek government for its assistance during the Carmel fire last year and stressed that “the two countries have common interests in solving the regional problems for the benefit of and stability of the Middle East and the southeast Mediterranean.”

Barak is the fourth government minister to visit Greece since the rapprochement between Athens and Jerusalem, joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. Greece’s education minister, Anna Diamandopoulou, visited Israel this week.   

Barak also met with Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papadimos and made a courtesy call to President Charolos Papoulias. On Wednesday he met with Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas, where they discussed mainly regional eastern Mediterranean matters.

“It’s been a dramatic week for Greek-Israeli relations," said Arie Mekel, Israel’s ambassador to Greece. "I think that is the best proof that the Greek-Israeli relations are on the rise as never before.”
 

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