(photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom)
ATHENS, Greece — Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu arrived in Athens on Monday and met with his Greek counterpart, Prime Minister George Papandreou.
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Security was tight for Netahyahu's visit — the first ever by an Israeli prime minister to Greece.
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.