Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras meets Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
Source: Israel, Greece, Cyprus likely to hold 3-way gas summit in January
In joint statements, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced Wednesday, following a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, that the leaders of Israel, Greece and Cyprus will likely hold a three-way meeting in Cyprus in January.
The tripartite meeting is expected to focus on energy issues, which were also a key topic of the Netanyahu-Tsipras discussion. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades was in Israel earlier this month, also for talks dominated by the energy question.
- This was the first visit ever to Israel for Tsipras, head of Greece’s far-left Syriza party.
- In addition to meeting Netanyahu, Tsipras met with opposition leader Isaac Herzog.
He is scheduled to meet on Thursday with President Reuven Rivlin before going to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Greece, which traditionally was very cold to Israel, began a significant warming up in 2010 under Papandreou, which can be attributed to a number of factors, foremost among them the significant deterioration of Israel’s ties with Turkey and Greece’s need for friends and partners in the wake of its severe financial problems. The change in ties has been manifest in Greece’s dispatch of significant assistance in December 2010 to fight the Carmel forest fire; its preventing the launch of a second Gaza flotilla from Greek ports in 2011; the huge increase in Israeli tourism to the country; the increased quality and quantity of Israeli-Greek military cooperation; and the discussions about forming a Greece-Israel-Cyprus energy triangle in the eastern Mediterranean.
Tsipras noted that the two countries were on a path of strategic cooperation, while adding that this did not rule out a focus on other areas as well, such as tourism, economic relations, research and technology.
The two prime ministers primarily discussed cooperation in the energy sector, which Tsipras said would continue on a ministerial level with meetings to be held in January. Immediately afterward if not the following day, he added, there will be a new trilateral summit between Greece, Israel and the Cyprus Republic that will most likely take place in Nicosia.
The Greek premier said the talks between the two sides had examined the opportunities for cooperation in the drilling and transportation of natural gas to Europe, to be discussed at the ministerial-level meeting that would probably be held in Jerusalem. The aim, he said, was to examine all the specific, practical steps that must be taken in order to ensure that these “do not remain on paper”.
Tsipras and Netanyahu also discussed the situation in the Middle East, where the Greek premier said that Athens wants to play a constructive role in the Palestinian issue “in order to open up a window of hope in a serious problem that remains unsolved.”
The Israeli premier referred to the difficulties of rebuilding an economy but expressed his confidence in Tsipras and said he would encourage Israeli businesses to invest in Greece. He noted that Greece and Israel have a long and lasting relationship of strategic partnership and that both countries face major challenges, such as violent religious fundamentalism, that it was in their joint interest to address.
Commenting on the situation in the region, Tsipras said it was necessary to preserve stability and prevent the spread of jihadism, while also encouraging dialogue to end the conflict in Syria.
The Greek premier said he had “listened with interest” to the Israeli prime minister’s positions on the Palestinian problem, while also relaying “as a friend and partner” Greece’s concern over the climate of tension. He expressed his opposition to violence and terrorism, but also to violence that caused civilian casualties.
Tsipras concluded by stressing the need to preserve the historically multicultural nature of the Middle East, which he said was a land where the history and culture of different nations and religions overlapped and where different cultures had always coexisted. It is necessary, he said, to fight to preserve its multicultural nature and the peaceful coexistence of religions and cultures.
“We want to play a positive role,” he added, stressing the need for the logic of cooperation and peace to prevail over that of fear and hostility to the different.