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Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos is offering to exchange air force squadrons with Israel for training purposes and has invited army officers to train in Greece for peacekeeping tasks.
Interviewed by The Jerusalem Post after his official state visit to Israel two weeks ago, Spiliotopoulos said he also wanted Greece to tap into Israeli R&D and strongly urged enhanced military cooperation.
During his visit he renewed a defense cooperation agreement with Israel.
A Greek-Israeli task force to monitor defense and military-oriented developments should be set up, Spiliotopoulos said in the e-mail interview.
The Jerusalem Post: Do you expect deepening defense ties between Israel and Greece after the renewal of the defense agreement during your recent trip to Israel?
Spiliotopoulos: I would like to underline the very good level of our bilateral military and defense cooperation and express my belief that the renewal of the agreement between our countries during my recent visit to Israel gives new impetus to our cooperation. Greece and Israel can serve as factors of stability and peace in the Eastern Mediterranean and the wider Middle East...
In fact, there are two major steps towards this direction: Firstly, the conduct of joint programs between the research and technology institutes supervised by our countries' ministries of defense to carry out research programs, symposiums and seminars in commonly agreed fields.
Secondly, the setting up of a Greek-Israeli task force to monitor defense and military-oriented developments in the wider area. The work of this task force could focus on producing common proposals and possible joint initiatives.
The Jerusalem Post: The Greek and Israeli navies have just completed a joint rescue exercise off the Crete cost. What kind of greater military cooperation do you envision between your country and Israel?
Spiliotopoulos: It is true that Greece gives particular importance to joint training and therefore, we are extremely pleased by the participation of Israel with a naval unit and the Home Front Command (HFC) in the Naval-Air Natural Disasters Management Exercise code-named "Dolphin-2005."
This exercise was organized recently by my country in the context of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue and gave a unique opportunity for regional cooperation among Greece, Israel, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.
In this spirit, it would also be useful to encourage cooperation among our countries' air forces, since it is our common belief that they excel both in quality and in training aspects. I would propose the initiation of squadron exchanges and training in the Greek Air Tactics Center, which is established according to the highest NATO standards and is one of the few training centers of its kind in the European area. Moreover, I would like to say that Greece welcomes the training of Israeli officers at the Multinational Peacekeeping Operations Training Center in Kilkis, Northern Greece.
The Jerusalem Post: What should the world do about Iranian efforts to obtain nuclear weapons? What is your reaction to the statement by the Iranian president for Israel to be wiped off the face of earth?
Spiliotopoulos: Proliferation of nuclear weapons is absolutely unacceptable. Any actions by states that appear to raise that prospect must be blocked at an early stage.
The Iranian nuclear controversy has reached a decisive crossroad. That is why Greece strongly supports the approach of the EU towards Iran's nuclear program, according to which negotiations are the best way to solve the crisis.
The continuation however, of the Comprehensive Dialogue between the EU and Iran is of paramount importance and should include all issues of mutual concern and interest such as terrorism, counter-narcotics, the proliferation of WMD, human rights, the Middle East peace process and other regional issues.
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