Greece, Israel progress on defense pact

Mofaz tells visiting minister: "I hope our relations will continue to be close."

greek minister mofaz 298 (photo credit: Defense Ministry)
greek minister mofaz 298
(photo credit: Defense Ministry)
Greece and Israel agreed to move forward with a defense pact and increase bilateral defense relations. Visiting Greek Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos said Tuesday night that the exchange of ideas with his Israeli counterpart Shaul Mofaz "is the first step to enhance relations." It was the first visit to Israel by a Greek defense minister in five years and Mofaz said he was encouraged by Spiliotopoulos's enthusiasm to improve ties. "After being with you in the last 24 hours, my feeling is you want to enhance the relations between the two countries' defense establishments and armed forces," Mofaz said. "I hope our relations will continue to be very close and our interests will be in the right direction to bring peace and security to our countries." Speaking at a festive dinner held at the Defense Ministry, Spiliotopoulos praised Israel's "courageous" withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. "Some day you will have two countries, Israel and Palestine, living with secure borders and in peace," Spiliotopoulos said. "Greece supports any process that moves toward peace." Earlier Mofaz and Spiliotopoulos signed a renewal of the "memorandum of understanding and friendship" which in effect renews the previous defense agreement singed in 1994 and again in 1999, but never fully implemented. "We signed an agreement and we will implement all the details and develop our relations on all fields including the security industries," said Mofaz, who added that he would try to visit Athens. In the past, Greece has sought to establish a security partnership with Israel, a move that was never taken seriously by Israel, partly because it did not want to jeopardize strategic relations with Turkey. Ties have recently warmed and last month Israel and Greece completed joint naval maneuvers off the Crete coast. Greece has recently ordered 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 52+ jets and is seeking electronic self-protection systems and other avionics for these jets. In the past, Israeli companies have offered their wares to Athens, but there have been few business deals made. On the other hand, Israeli security firms played a major advisory role in preparing security for the Olympics in Athens. Spiliotopoulos was the Greek government's representative to the memorial services for Yitzhak Rabin and was scheduled to visit the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday before ending his two-day visit.