Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou welcomed her Israeli counterpart to Athens. Herzog is in Greece as part of an official state visit.
As tensions between Greece and Turkey are heating up, particularly over the countries’ territorial waters, the visit from the Israeli President may be an attempt to quell any fears over the upcoming trip. Israel and Greece are close allies.
After Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that he expected the visit to “open a new chapter in relations between Turkey and Israel,” concern began to grow in Greece.
However, an Israeli official, speaking to Agence France-Presse, stated that “the improvement in the ties with Turkey is not coming at the expense of the very important relations with Greece and Cyprus.”
Israeli President’s visit to Greece dominated by invasion of Ukraine
Although tensions between Turkey and Greece may have been the planned topic for discussion during the visit, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which happened during the early morning hours, dominated the meeting.
Sakellaropoulou acknowledged this shift when welcoming the Israeli President, stating “unfortunately, the circumstances have changed the course of events considerably.
“With this attack, Russia is blatantly violating international law and endangering security and stability, not only in Europe but globally…It is important that the European institutions have already unequivocally condemned this attack.
“The thoughts of us all are with the Ukrainian people, who are suffering. I want to remain hopeful that we will not mourn the loss of human life and that Russia, at the last minute, will understand the consequences of this action and withdraw its troops, respecting Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and integrity,” she continued.
Herzog mirrored Sakellaropoulou’s sentiments of grave concern, and urged the Ukrainian Jewish community and Israelis in the country to seek refuge in Israel. “I take this opportunity to call on all Israelis in Ukraine to return immediately to Israel…and of course my thoughts are directed to the local Jewish community.”
Bond between Israel and Greece strong despite upcoming visit to Turkey
The two leaders then went on to stress the bond between Greece and Israel. Sakellaropoulou stated “our two countries, especially in recent years, have a strategic relationship, mainly due to the friendship between the peoples, but also to their common vision for security and stability in the region.
“After the talks that we will have, this relationship can develop even further, because it is a common goal of our countries to expand cooperation, so that they can be a pillar of stability in our region, which so greatly needs it,” she continued.
In response, Israeli President Herzog said that Greece and Israel “must continue to work together to tackle climate change and the other challenges that lie ahead… I hope the talks between us will be good and further cement our excellent relations, both in the human and the social spheres.”