Prime Ministers Papendreou and Netanyahu
Prime Ministers Papendreou and NetanyahuIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Greece and Israel deepened ties in the fields of tourism and security Tuesday with the first visit to Athens by an Israeli Prime Minister despite left-wing anti-Israeli protests.

"In addition to issues of economic cooperation and prosperity for the two countries, like tourism, we also discussed issues of defense cooperation and security,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “We need a peaceful region--a peaceful Middle East region with direct talks with the Palestinian authority--the agenda on that is not fixed. We also hope that this trip will be a first step to keep improving bilateral relations with Greece."

His host, Prime Minister George Papandreou who visit Israel last month, told Prime Minister Netanyahu, "We can deepen and broaden our relations with Israel in commercial relations, large investments and tourism as well as security. We are in the same neighborhood and Greece has a vital interest in a two-party solution for Israel and the Palestinians, and we want to contribute to the economy and safety of the region.”

He pointed out that Greece is not substituting Turkey as an ally of Israel. “Good relations between Greece and Israel should be complementary and not competitive with relations between Turkey and Israel,” Prime Minister Papandreou stated.

Turkey’s long-standing friendship with Israel soured quickly since the Operation Cast Lead war against the terrorist infrastructure in Hamas-run Gaza and the growing dominance of Iran in Middle East politics.