Netanyahu, Greek PM Samaras to meet amid Iranian overtures

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also met with the Czech president who is on "same wavelength" regarding Tehran.

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October 8, 2013 01:29
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meeting with Czech President Milos Zeman, October 7, 2013.

Netanyahu meeting with Czech president 370. (photo credit: GPO)

 
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After making a strong case against Iran last week at the UN, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Tuesday with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, whose country would like to give Iranian President Hassan Rouhani a chance.

The meeting will take place a day after Netanyahu met Czech President Milos Zeman.

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Before that meeting, Zeman met President Shimon Peres, who said “Iran will not be judged by words, but only by deeds. For us, what will count is the real position of Iran in coming days.”

Zeman responded, “You know Hamlet – words, words, words… But facts are more important.”

Samaras is heading a delegation of some eight Greek ministers, who will hold discussions with their Israeli counterparts in the first Israeli-Greece government-to-government meeting.

Such meetings are ways for countries to fundamentally strengthen bilateral relations, and Israel has them annually with a number of countries, including the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Bulgaria.

Although there will surely be much agreement on key bilateral issues, Netanyahu and Samaras are unlikely to see eye-to-eye on Iran.



According to diplomatic officials, Greece is not convinced by Netanyahu’s argument that Rouhani is essentially no different than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, just with a more pleasant façade. The Greeks believe Rouhani should be given some time, and that perhaps the pressure already placed on Iran has changed its leadership’s positions.

According to these officials, the Greeks believe there is a “glimpse of hope with the new leadership,” and that it should be given some time.

While some European countries, such as France and Britain, continue to press for a tough line on Iran, Greece is among some of the smaller European countries that would like to see sanctions eased – partly because the sanctions are hurting their own economies. According to diplomatic officials, it is not easy for a country in Greece’s difficult economic straits to explain to its own people that sanctions which hurt them are needed against a faraway state that is not directly threatening them.

The Greeks, according to the officials, maintain the Iranians will likely recognize the gestures from the West, and see there are benefits to going forward in the direction the world wants to see them go.

Netanyahu’s meeting with Samaras comes a day after his meeting with Zeman, whose position on Iran is closer to his own.

At a joint appearance before their meeting, Netanyahu reiterated that Israel was not opposed to negotiations with Iran, as long as they lead to “real results.” He also repeated what he has been saying consistently since his appearance last week at the UN: that if Iran was indeed interested in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, it would not need to enrich uranium or build a nuclear reactor.

“A real agreement, an agreement that produces real results which produce real disarmament from nuclear weapons of Iran, requires that they completely give up centrifuges and the plutonium route,” he said. “If they do that, I think we could all be satisfied and we could all support this, such an achievement. If they don’t, well, we’ve been down that road before and we don’t want to repeat it.”

Netanyahu said he feels that when he says these words in front of Zeman, “you understand deeply.”

Israel, he added, has “no better friends in Europe than the Czech Republic, the Czech people.”

Zeman said he understood that Israel’s fights cannot only be against physical deserts. “There are deserts in the human mind, there are deserts represented by some neighbors, and you mentioned one neighbor in your statement,” he said.

Zeman said he was visiting as a politician who “always supported Israel, whether it was popular or not.” Earlier in the day, at a reception hosted by Peres, Zeman said the Czech Republic and Israel were on the same wavelength with regard to Israel’s national security and the global fight against terrorism.

Zeman, who was last in Israel 12 years ago, noted that there have been many changes in the interim. What has not changed has been his attitude to Israel. “I have always been a friend and I shall be a friend,” he said.

Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.

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