Netanyahu meets Greek PM in Athens

Left-wing groups plan flotilla protests outside Israeli Embassy.

August 16, 2010 17:54
2 minute read.
Visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Athens, Greece.

Netanyahu Greece. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom)


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ATHENS, Greece — Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu arrived in Athens on Monday and met with his Greek counterpart, Prime Minister George Papandreou.

Security was tight for Netahyahu's visit — the first ever by an Israeli prime minister to Greece.

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Left-wing groups were planning demonstrations Monday afternoon in Athens, with marches to the Israeli Embassy outside to protest the flotilla raid and Israel's policies in the Middle East.

Police increased patrols in the capital, and cars were barred from parking along key routes, including near the Jewish Museum in central Athens, which Netanyahu visited before the start of his official program. All cars and pedestrians were barred from the street on which the museum is located during his tour there.

Papandreou met with Netanyahu on Monday afternoon, after speaking Sunday by telephone with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, his office said.

A government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Papandreou wanted to hear the Arab leaders' opinions on the Middle East peace process, including on a push for a resumption of direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, before his meeting with Netanyahu.

The Israelis and Palestinians have been balking at the terms for restarting direct talks — Abbas is wary of entering open-ended talks with Netanyahu, who has retreated from some of the concessions offered by his predecessors, while Netanyahu and his top Cabinet ministers have said they will not accept any conditions for resuming negotiations.

Under an emerging compromise, the so-called Quartet of Mideast mediators — the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — is considering issuing an invitation for direct talks that would list underlying principles and a time frame.

Papandreou, who also holds the foreign ministry portfolio, had been an active mediator in Arab-Israeli relations in his previous role as foreign minister nearly a decade ago.

The two prime ministers were to hold talks in Athens on Monday afternoon, and then briefly head to the nearby island of Poros on Tuesday. Israel also is strengthening its military cooperation with Greece, especially regarding military industries.

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