Israeli Prine Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Greek FM Nikos Dendias meeting in Jerusalem on Thursday. Photo Twitter.com/NetanyahuGreece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday amidst the sharply-increasing tensions in the Mediterranean after a Turkish oil and gas exploration vessel moved into the Greek EEZ on Monday.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the press before the meeting that not only does his country take Turkish aggression seriously, but the ties, already strong between Greece and Israel, are now “expanding,” due to what he called the “shared geopolitical interests of two democratic countries in the eastern Mediterranean.”
He continued, saying “Of course we take any aggressive actions in the eastern Mediterranean seriously from any actors, including Turkey.”
The Israeli PM’s remarks came in the wake of this week’s troubling developments in the Mediterranean, with the Turkish ship Oruc Reis floating in the waters atop Greece’s continental shelf, between the Greek island of Crete and the island nation of Cyprus.
Greek Foreign Minister Dendias had met with his Israeli counterpart earlier in the day, when they discussed “regional developments challenging the stability and growth of the Mediterranean region,” according to an Israeli Foreign Ministry statement.
It was already known that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would like the involved countries involved express greater clarification in the extraordinarily difficult political situation in the area.
In a rarely-seen move, the Israeli Foreign Ministry released a statement ahead of today’s meetings, declaring its form support for Greece regarding the recent tensions. This was considered a very positive move on behalf of Greece, which had lobbied for the powerful nation of Israel to come out more forcefully on its behalf.
The communique stated “Israel expresses its full support and solidarity with Greece in its maritime zones and its right to delimit its EEZ (exclusive economic zone).”
After the meeting it was also announced that 600 Israeli tourists would now be allowed to enter a limited number of areas in Greece, undergoing only a two-day quarantine period. All Israelis had heretofore been denied entry to the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dendias posted 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,” adding “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).”
In recent times, the nations of Greece and Israel have forged closer ties in many arenas, including energy and security. The East Med Pipeline constitutes one of the largest energy projects in the entire world, stretching from Israel in the east to the Greek mainland, through Cyprus.
Israel and Turkey maintain diplomatic relations, but they have been severely strained over the years, especially after an incident in which a Turkish organization with ties to President Erdogan sent a ship to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Israeli Defense Force commandos stopped the ship in the water, licking nine armed Turks who were aboard it.
Already at a low ebb, Israel was loath to worsen or complicate the already-negative atmosphere in Turkish-Israeli relations; today’s statement was a clear move in the direction of Greece, giving support to what it views as an important democratic neighbor across the Mediterranean.
The November, 2019 Turkey-Libya EEZ agreement also entitled Ankara to claim veto rights to the EastMed pipeline’s construction, according to its Turkish creators, drawing Israel into the difficult situation involving Mediterranean energy politics between Greece and Turkey.