Israel asks to export gas to Europe through Greece

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in Athens to discuss deal.

Danny Ayalon 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Danny Ayalon 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will land in Greece on Tuesday to talk about joint exploration of natural gas from the Mediterranean Sea, the inclusion of a party accused of anti-Semitism in Greece’s new unity government and how to lever the power of the diaspora.
“Greece is a strategically important country due to its proximity to us in the Eastern Mediterranean and especially due to the discovery of oil and gas,” he said on Monday over the phone.
“We’re going to talk about making Greece and Cyprus distribution centers for Israeli gas to Europe, which needs to diversify its sources.”
During his two-day visit Ayalon is scheduled to meet with newly appointed Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas and members of the local Jewish community.
The deputy minister, who was involved in a diplomatic spat with Turkey two years ago, said talks between Jerusalem and Athens would in no way impact Turkey, Greece’s neighbor and historical rival.
“We are stressing in Jerusalem and Athens that the strengthening of our ties is based on bringing a positive contribution to the region and is not aimed against anyone else,” he said.
Another issue on the agenda will be how to lever the power of expatriate communities.
Greece, which gave the world the word diaspora – which means scattering and was first used in ancient times to describe Greek outposts spread out across the Mediterranean – is interested in learning from Israel how to cultivate ties with Greek communities abroad, Ayalon said.
“They have a Greek diaspora in the US which has parallels with the Jewish Diaspora there,” said Ayalon. “One of the things that I will propose is to hold a meeting in New York between local Greek groups and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations.”
Ayalon will also meet with members of Greece’s Jewish community where the subject of the inclusion of the rightist LAOS party – whose leader has been accused of making anti-Semitic statements – in the new unity government is likely to come up.
“We understand what goes behind having a unity government and having a wider array of parties in the specific set of circumstances Greece is in,” said a source in Jerusalem, referring to the country’s severe economic crisis.
“We know there have been anti-Semitic statements by this party but we’re certain the new government will continue doing everything it can to fight anti-Semitism like the previous government.
We will also meet with the Jewish community in Greece and with the politicians we meet we will raise the issue in informal talks.”