In an effort to improve ties with Greece and create new military partnerships in the Mediterranean, Israeli defense industries are in talks with the Hellenic Armed Forces over a possible multi-million dollar sale of advanced weapons systems.

A senior Israeli defense delegation consisting of officials from the Defense Ministry and local industries recently traveled to Greece to discuss the deal, which could include weapons systems for the Hellenic Air Force’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets.

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Officials said that the deal has been in the works for several months, ever since Binyamin Netanyahu made Israeli history and became the first prime minister to visit Greece in August.

One of the obstacles in the way of the deal is Greece’s poor economy, but officials said they were seeking creative ways for Greece to pay for the systems and enable the deal to materialize.

Israeli-Greek ties have been on the ascent since May’s navy raid on a Turkish flotilla trying to break the Israeli-imposed sea blockade on the Gaza Strip. In response to the raid, which ended with nine dead Turkish nationals, Turkey cut off all military and political ties with Israel.

Locked out of Turkey, the Israel Air Force found a new partner in Greece. Over the past year, it has held four exercises in Greece, most recently in October and November; these last ones included the deployment of squadrons of fighter jets and attack helicopters.

Officials said that Israel would continue to cooperate with Greece and was also likely to hold maneuvers in Bulgaria in the beginning of 2011.

Last week, the IAF held joint maneuvers with the Italian Air Force in the Negev, just two weeks after completing a round of joint drills in Sardinia. The maneuvers were held out of the Uvda Air Force Base in the South and included IAF F-16s and Italian Tornados.

The IAF’s “Flying Dragon” Squadron, which impersonates enemy forces, flew against the Italians.

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