Netanyahu to Greek FM: Israel takes Turkish aggression in Med. seriously

Netanyahu said ties between Greece and Israel are expanding, in part due to the “shared geopolitical interests of two democratic countries in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz sets sail in Izmit Bay, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, off the port of Dilovasi, Turkey, June 20, 2019 (photo credit: MURAD SEZER/REUTERS)
Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz sets sail in Izmit Bay, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, off the port of Dilovasi, Turkey, June 20, 2019
(photo credit: MURAD SEZER/REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out against Turkey’s latest actions in the eastern Mediterranean during a visit from Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias on Thursday.
“Of course we take any aggressive actions in the eastern Mediterranean seriously from any actors, including Turkey,” Netanyahu said.
The comment came after Turkey sent naval ships into the eastern Mediterranean this week, saying they are meant to protect a research mission, surveying the continental shelf. The ships are in what Greece considers to be its Exclusive Economic Zone. The Foreign Ministry expressed its support for Greece at this time in a message on Wednesday.
In his public statement ahead of the meeting with Dendias, Netanyahu said ties between Greece and Israel are expanding, in part due to the “shared geopolitical interests of two democratic countries in the eastern Mediterranean.”
Dendias met with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi earlier Thursday, and they announced that, after months of denying entry, 600 Israeli tourists per week would be able to visit a limited number of sites in Greece each week with only a two-day quarantine period, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The ministers also discussed “regional developments challenging the stability and growth of the Mediterranean region,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.
Dendias wrote on Twitter that he "thanked the Israeli side for its clear statement and position on the issue of Turkish delinquent behavior in the eastern Mediterranean.
"I made it clear to my Israeli interlocutors that Turkish delinquency is a danger to all countries in our region, a danger to security and stability. We also talked about energy security and East Med [pipeline]," he tweeted.
Turkey signed an agreement with Libya in November 2019, dividing large swaths of the eastern Mediterranean Sea between them, creating friction between Ankara and Athens. Last week, Greece and Egypt signed their own agreement, delineating their EEZs in the eastern Mediterranean, to Turkey’s consternation.
Greece and Israel have become close allies in recent years, working together on energy projects such as the EastMed pipeline, planned to be the longest in the world, which would go from Israel to the Greek mainland by way of Cyprus.
Turkey and Israel technically maintain diplomatic relations, but they have been strained for most of the past decade since the IHH, an organization with ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sent the Mavi Marmara ship to bust the IDF’s naval blockade on Gaza, arming some of the people aboard. IDF naval commandos stopped the ship, killing nine activists. Erdogan is openly hostile Israel, supports Hamas, and funds anti-Israel organizations in east Jerusalem.
Though Greece lobbied its allies to make public statements of support and despite it being clear that Israel would prefer Greece in this situation, Jerusalem kept mostly silent on the crisis building up in recent months. While Greece is a friend, the government would prefer not to turn the poor relations with Turkey – Israel’s 10th-largest trading partner – into one of enmity.
Another reason for the long silence was timing; tensions would rise between Greece and Turkey, but go down within a matter of days. The current crisis, however, seems to not have a quick solution.
In addition, the Turkey-Libya EEZ agreement means Ankara claims veto rights to the EastMed pipeline’s construction.