Israeli-Greco ties in bloom as Greek FM's arrival nears

Droustas's visit will come just four days after Greece and Israel are scheduled to conclude a four-day joint military exercise.

311_Greek FM Droustas (photo credit: Associated Press)
311_Greek FM Droustas
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The newly kindled Israeli- Greek romance continues to blossom, as Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas is expected in Jerusalem on Monday, a week after a high level official from the Greek Prime Minister’s Office came to Israel to “map out fields of cooperation” between the two countries.
Droustas will arrive as part of a three-day regional tour that will also take him to the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. A Greek diplomatic official said the visit is further indication of the significant strengthening of ties between the two countries.
RELATED:Greece and Israel carry out joint air force drillsAnalysis: Israel's new Mediterranean best friendHis visit will come just four days after Greece and Israel are scheduled to conclude a four-day joint military exercise.
Eight Israeli helicopters are currently taking part in the combat search-and-rescue exercise in the southern part of the country, the AP quoted the Greek air force as saying on Wednesday. Greece is participating with three helicopters and six fighter jets.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu paid the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to Greece in August, a month after his Greek counterpart George Papandreou came to Israel.
The recent sharp deterioration in ties with Turkey has led to a significant warming of Israel’s ties with other traditional Turkish rivals in the region, such as Cyprus, Bulgaria and – most markedly – Greece, which for many years was viewed in Jerusalem as one of the least friendly countries toward Israel in Europe.
Earlier this week, the minister of state in the Greek Prime Minister’s Office, Haris Pamboukis, visited Jerusalem and held a number of meetings to discuss ways to advance the diplomatic, security and economic relations with Israel.
Among the issues reportedly discussed with Pamboukis was the possibility of building an underwater pipeline form Israel to Greece, through which Israel could export natural gas to Europe. Turkey was in the past considered as the logical partner for this pipeline, since it is closer, but the recent strain in relations has forced a re-evaluation of these types of deals with Ankara.
In a related matter, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman – who on Sunday said the European Union would do well do solve its own conflicts before dealing with the Middle East – left Tuesday for visits to Berlin and Bratislava.
In Berlin he will meet with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, and in Bratislava he will meet with Slovakian leaders, including its foreign, defense and interior ministers.