Netanyahu has no plans to visit Turkey

First visit to Greece by a PM ‘corrected 62-year-old abnormality’

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
August 19, 2010 01:49
2 minute read.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Papandreou Netanyahu 311. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom)

The tension between Israel and Turkey resulted in the “sharpening of mutual interests” between Israel and Greece, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told reporters accompanying him on his way back from his two-day visit to Greece that ended on Tuesday.

Netanyahu and his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, at a press conference on Monday, took pains to distance the visit to Greece from Israel’s problems with Turkey. But Netanyahu spoke openly on the way back home about the troubles with Turkey inspiring the development of Israel’s relationship with Greece, which has feuded with Turkey for decades.

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Asked whether he had plans to visit Turkey, Netanyahu revealed to a reporter from the Yisrael Hayom newspaper that he had never been there.

“I am the only Israeli who has never been to Turkey in his life, and I don’t think I will be going there soon,” he said.

Netanyahu’s visit to Athens came amid a souring of Israeli- Turkish relations following the navy’s May 31 commando raid on a Gaza Strip-bound protest flotilla that left nine Turkish activists dead. The operation, conducted in international waters, led Turkey to recall its ambassador from Israel and scale back military cooperation.

Israeli and Greek teams will soon begin working on implementing the agreements Netanyahu reached with Papandreou, including joint military exercises, military purchases, upgrading ammunition, coordinating intelligence, and high-level strategic sessions. To that end, Greek Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos will visit soon.

Greek and Israeli officials stressed that the agreements would not be implemented at the expense of either country’s relationship with Turkey.

Netanyahu, at the culmination of the visit, expressed satisfaction about improving Israel’s ties with Greece.

“We are opening a new chapter,” he told Israel Radio. “What is unnatural is that for 62 years we didn’t do what we did now with George Papandreou coming to Jerusalem and me reciprocating by coming to Athens.

We are fixing abnormalities that there were for decades, in which two countries that can and want to cooperate on security, tourism and diplomatic issues did not, and now we are.”

Bloomberg contributed to this report.


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