Greek foreign minister: Israel must understand our problems with Turkey

Tension is high in the eastern Mediterranean.

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July 29, 2019 05:34
2 minute read.
Greek foreign minister: Israel must understand our problems with Turkey

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

A clear message must be sent to Turkey that it is unacceptable to violate Cyprus’ sovereign rights, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Sunday, following a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem.

His comments were made in the context of a trip he is scheduled to take on Monday with new Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on his first visit to Cyprus.

“It is always useful to take the opportunity to explain to our Israeli friends the problems Greece is facing with regard to Turkey’s provocations,” said Dendias, who was sworn into office just two weeks ago.

Tension is high in the eastern Mediterranean due to Turkey sending gunboats accompanying Turkish drilling and exploration vessels searching for natural gas in Cyprus’ economic exclusion zone. The Turks claim the right to explore there, saying it belongs to Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, whose administration is only recognized by Ankara.

Dendias said after meeting Rivlin that the relationship between Greece and Israel acts as a stabilizing factor in the region, describing it as “very, very important, especially when you bear in mind that Israeli-Turkish relations are not good.”

This was Dendias’ second visit abroad – his first was to Washington – since taking office, and a clear signal of the importance that Athens attaches to ties with Jerusalem.

In addition to meeting Rivlin, he also met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

Netanyahu, who has been instrumental in forging an alliance with Greece and Cyprus, issued a brief statement saying that he and Dendias discussed “the strengthening of bilateral economic cooperation and advancing the East Med gas pipeline project between Israel and Europe.” The statement did not mention that the two discussed Turkey.

Dendias also met with Greek Holocaust survivors, and visited Yad Vashem, where he laid a wreath. “The Greek word for truth literally means ‘that which can never be forgotten,’” he said. “Denying truth is a form of evil and memory is our weapon against it.”

Dendias’ words have added significance because among the members of the new government in Athens is Makis Voridis, who has a history of antisemitic actions and statements and whom Israel said two weeks ago it would shun.

Since then, however, Voridis issued a statement distancing himself from his previous association with neo-Nazi groups. The central body of the Greek Jewish community issued a statement in response saying they are taking Voridis’ comments “under consideration and evaluating the explanations” in the hope that he “will prove in practice the sincerity of his statement.”

Rivlin issued a statement saying that he and Denidas “shared their concern regarding growing antisemitism around the world.”

Rivlin said he hoped Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos will take part in a major event to be held at Yad Vashem in January, which will be attended by world leaders to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.


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