Greece-Israel relations improving, Israeli envoy says


ATHENS, Greece (JTA) — The historic exchange of visits by the premiers of Israel and Greece is a sign of rapprochement between the two countries, Israeli Ambassador to Greece Arye Mekel said.

Mekel made his statements in an interview Feb. 12 with the Athens News Agency, the official Greek news agency, in its first interview with an Israeli official in 40 years.

"Economic cooperation is at the core of Greek-Israeli relations, which are growing at an unprecedented pace and yielding tangible results that benefit both countries," Mekel said. "Additionally, a joint cabinet meeting scheduled for the spring — and focusing on the entire spectrum of bilateral relations — is regarded as the next important step in bilateral relations."

Mekel referred to the growing cooperation in the sectors of tourism and innovative management methods in agriculture and the environment, and underlined that Greece-Israel ties have their own value and are not the result of recent unrest in the Middle East.

The veteran diplomat expressed Israel’s deep appreciation for the Greek government’s contribution to the peace process in the Middle East, adding that cooperation for regional peace and stability will benefit both Greece and Israel.

Referring to the planned joint cabinet meeting, Mekel said "it will convene possibly in the spring — focusing on sectors such as the economy, tourism, defense, culture and energy," and underlined that it is "indicative of the importance attributed to cooperation by both countries."

Mekel pointed out that Greek cooperation with Israel on tourism is excellent and that about 250,000 Israeli tourists visited Greece in 2010, a 200 percent rise over the previous year. 

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