Greek PM promises to help Israel forge closer EU ties

In speech to Jewish American leaders visiting Athens, Papandreou says his country "would like to integrate Israel into European market."

February 10, 2011 15:11
1 minute read.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

George Papandreou 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

ATHENS, Greece — Greece's prime minister on Thursday promised to help Israel forge closer ties with the European Union, as part of a drive to promote investment in the crisis-hit country.

George Papandreou said Athens could help Israel gain access to European markets, in a speech to Jewish American leaders visiting Athens.

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"We see the (European) market expanding to the Mediterranean and certainly we would like to integrate Israel into this European market," he said. "I think this is vital for Israel's economy but also for its strategic security.

Crisis-hit Greece and Israel — anxious to build regional alliances with Egypt in turmoil and following a public spat with Turkey — have launched a series of negotiations in recent months for potential cooperation deals.

Papandreou said Greece was seeking cooperation in tourism, agriculture, defense and hi-tech innovation, and said the two countries would hold a joint cabinet meeting in Israel in April.

Officials in Israel and Greece say also the two countries are holding preliminary talks on potential energy deals involving newly-discovered Israeli offshore natural gas deposits.

On Thursday, Papandreou's ministers of foreign affairs, investment, public order, tourism and defense held meetings with a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations but their presentations at a downtown Athens hotel were closed to the media.

Greece has traditionally close ties with the Palestinians and Arab countries and only established diplomatic ties with the Jewish State in 1990.

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