“It is always a pleasure to come to Israel, my first trip abroad post-corona,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at a meeting in Jerusalem with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Greek premier is accompanied by five ministers for wide-ranging talks with their counterparts covering energy, tourism as well the Middle East Peace Process.
According to the Israeli media, Israel is trying to negotiate the renewal of tourism between his country and Israel following the lockdowns to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
Greece is seeking reciprocity with Israel, by which people flying to Israel from Greece – including Israelis returning from vacation – will not have to go into a two-week quarantine upon arrival.
Netanyahu said after the meeting that Israel will allow international flights to resume on August 1, with Greece and Cyprus being the first destinations to be given a green light.
“We are looking now into reopening tourism, in which case Greece and Cyprus will be the first,” he said. But he clarified that this decision will depend on how Israel copes with the coronavirus pandemic closer on the date.
On his side, Mitsotakis said that tourism is important to Greece and his country will prioritize health and safety: “If all goes to plan, on August 1 we’ll open tourist destinations to Israelis,” he told the press.
He also said the two leaders discussed “Turkey’s aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean” and the “destabilizing role” Ankara is playing in Libya.
Netanyahu was also expected to ask his Greek counterpart to help moderate the EU’s response to the possibility that Israel will extend its laws to parts of the West Bank which could start on July 1 and is part of the peace plan unveiled by US President Donald Trump in January.
Israel is counting on European allies such as Austria and Hungary — who last month refused to back a resolution against annexation — and “friendly” countries such as Greece and Cyprus to tone down the EU response. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose country is to chair the rotating EU presidency from July 1, was in Jerusalem last week.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades is expected to visit Israel next Wednesday to discuss similar topics.