Visiting Greek Defense Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos took offense at press
reports saying Jerusalem has asked his country to increase protection for
Israeli tourists, saying this is “completely unfounded and
Greece is “the safest country in every aspect” for all
tourists, and “especially those coming from the friendly state of Israel,”
“Come to Greece, Greek people are waiting for
A defense source said on Wednesday that Israel had asked security
forces around the world, including in Cyprus and Greece, to increase protection
for Israelis over the coming High Holy Days in light of warnings that Tehran
will continue to target Israelis abroad.
Israel has blamed Iran and
Hezbollah for a number of recent attacks on Israelis abroad, including the
deadly attack in Bulgaria in July.
Panagiotopoulos, in an email exchange
with The Jerusalem Post
, said Greece was interested in an upgrade of the defense
cooperation between Athens and Jerusalem.
“I’m of the belief that the
development of partnerships amongst Mediterranean countries is an essential
parameter to maintain a secured environment which will be beneficial for the
whole region,” he said.
“Both countries share a common interest in
maintaining a secure environment in the wider area. In plain words, this is
tantamount to an upgrade of the existing defense cooperation between our
Panagiotopoulos, who met on Thursday with Defense Minister Ehud
Barak on the second of his three days in the country, said Israel had a
“paramount” role in the unstable and fragile Middle East.
“I was one of
the first, many years ago, to advocate the closer cooperation between our
countries. I have even been criticized for this approach and I am very pleased
today that under my capacity of minister of defense I can contribute to this
policy,” he said.
“Our two nations and people have a long and prestigious
history, with a great background and tradition. We have also been through some
dramatic moments and tragedies and we have proved that we can
Asked in what ways the two countries could cooperate in terms
of military assistance, the defense minister said he could think of areas of
enhanced cooperation ranging from “administrative issues, to tactical matters to
purely defensive and high-level requirements.” He did not
Panagiotopoulos confirmed his country’s participation in a
Cyprus led multinational military maneuver in October called Argonaftis 2012
focusing on the evacuation of noncombatants from Middle East conflict
Israel was invited to participate, though it has not formally
confirmed it will take part.
“Israel still has to decide about the level
and nature of its involvement, but I am confident of its full successful
involvement,” he said.