Athens, November 24, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
At the deepening and widening of the strategic relationship between Athens and Jerusalem aims the official visit of the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, on Wednesday in Jerusalem.
The Greek prime minister will be accompanied by the ministers of foreign affairs Nikos Kotzias, state Nikos Pappas, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Christos Spirtzis, the deputy foreign minister, Ioannis Amanatidis, and the government representative, Olga Gerovasili.
The official schedule includes meetings with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the President of the Republic, Reuven Rivlin, Energy Minister, Yuval Steinitz, and the opposition leader, Isaac Herzog. The Greek delegation will also meet with the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos, while on Thursday it will travel to Ramallah to hold talks with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.
Tel Aviv places great importance to the visit of the Greek prime minister, something that became appeared during the visit in the summer of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades in Israel, where Benjamin Netanyahu showed great interest to the Greek PM and the situation in Greece.
Relations between the two countries ‘warmed up’ five years ago, when PM was George Papandreou, while it was a disaster that brought the two countries closer.
The huge fires that threatened the entire northern Israel in December 2010 provided an opportunity to Athens to show solidarity. Greek and Cypriot firefighting aircrafts and ground forces helped decisively to extinguish the fire, an initiative that is still mention very positively in Israel, not only by officials but also ordinary citizens.
The bilateral relations have continued to grow and during Antonis Samaras governance, but were focused primarily on defence cooperation and security issues, with energy cooperation more of a plan on paper, as both Israel and Cyprus, who have found natural gas deposits in the their EEZ’s, had not reached a conclusion as to how they will exploit them and especially by what route will they be channeled to the markets.
Shortly before the January elections and the rise of SYRIZA to power, Tel Aviv had doubts whether the bilateral cooperation would continue, in particular because of the pro-Palestinian positions expressed by the Left in Greece. But four days before the election in January, a close associate of Tsipras Alexis met privately with the Ambassador of Israel, Irit Ben Abba, to her home in Athens and assured her that “we are on the same line as the previous government” .
The Greek crisis has not allowed for big steps to be taken, but the Greek foreign minister’s visit in Tel Aviv the day of the Greek referendum made great impression on Israelis and was considered a positive message.
The Israeli experience of a decade-long austerity, which was followed by high economic growth, low (5.1%) unemployment, the country’s technological progress and in particular the strong growth of startups (start ups), have generated interest in the mansion Maximus and Athens would like to benefit from the Israeli experience in these areas.
Interest also exists for the Israeli unmanned aircraft, UAV, and for desalination plants, a sector in which the Israelis have developed great expertise, which could solve the problem of water supply of the Greek islands.
Moreover, Israel will soon decide for its natural gas, with predominant scenario to cooperate with Cyprus, by creating LNG plant on Cypriot soil and the extraction of natural gas by ship to Europe through Alexandroupolis. From there it would be pumped into the pipeline that will connect Greece with Bulgaria, finding its way to the european markets.
There is a large area of cooperation between the two countries, which with the tripartite cooperation with Cyprus are forming a new triangle of security, energy efficiency cooperation and development, in a politically volatile region. It remains to be proven in practice.