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Israel Reassures Greece as Ganz Meets Erdogan in Turkey

Greece Israel Turkey
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets Turkish President Erdogan on Thursday. Credit: Twitter/Benny Ganz

Israel reassured Greece that any progress in bilateral relations with Turkey will not be carried out to the detriment of relations with Greece, sources told the Athens-Macedonia News Agency (AMNA) on Wednesday.

The same sources added that Greek-Israeli relations are of strategic importance.

This was received with relief in Greece on the eve of the meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential residence in Ankara on Thursday.

Israel says ties with Turkey do not affect Greece

Ganz’s visit is the first official trip to Turkey by an Israeli defense chief in over a decade, a sign of re-blossoming ties between the countries.

Israeli sources told AMNA that Israel’s rapprochement with Turkey, an important country of the region, is part of its policy of contributing towards solutions so that tension in the region might be reduced.

In August, Israel and Turkey announced the restoration of full diplomatic relations following a years-long rift.

Bilateral relations took a nosedive in the wake of the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which nine Turkish nationals were killed during an attempt to break the naval blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry announced in September the appointment of Irit Lillian as ambassador to Turkey, the first person to hold the post since 2018, when Turkey expelled Israel’s envoy and withdrew its own ambassador amid fighting between the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinians along the Gaza border.

No weapons deals between Israel and Turkey

On Wednesday, ahead of Gantz’s flight, a defense official told the Walla news site that the trip would likely not see any weapons deals being signed between the two sides.

“A race of procurement should not be expected here…we are very, very careful to continue this [process] with measured and careful steps,” the official said, noting the sensitive ties Israel has with Turkish rivals Cyprus and Greece. “We made it clear and it will be made clear as part of the minister’s visit.”

Defense ties were once a mainstay of Israel’s relations with Turkey, but unraveled as diplomatic ties soured, the Times of Israel reports.

Last month, for the first time in a decade, a Turkish warship anchored at an Israeli port.

A month ago, Prime Minister Yair Lapid also met with Erdogan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual high-level meeting. It was the first such meeting between an Israeli premier and the Turkish leader since Ehud Olmert met Erdogan in Turkey in 2008.

Excellent relations between Israel and Greece

Today, Greece and Israel enjoy excellent diplomatic relations and consider each other allies. Israel is the second largest importer of Greek products in the Middle East.

Relations between the two countries are also reinforced by the over two millennia old Jewish presence in Greece while Jerusalem is home to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The two countries have strengthened their defense relations in recent years. Israeli jets often participate in drills with the Hellenic Air Force.

Last week Greece, in partnership with Israel, opened a flight school in the southern city of Kalamata that will train pilots in combat and other missions.

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