Israeli Defense Ministry reassures Greece and Cyprus on trilateral alliance

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos today in Athens, three weeks after his visit to Turkey and his meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, taking the opportunity to denouncing Iran’s activities and offering Israel’s assistance in easing the ongoing Turkish-Greek dispute.

“Iranian aggression continues to be a great threat to the region and the world,” Gantz said during a joint press conference with his host. “We see Iran’s involvement in the war in Ukraine; the UN Board of Governors voted again tonight affirming that it (Iran) continues to develop its nuclear program. We see its support for terrorism and its proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and also in the West Bank, and just this week an Iranian drone hit a civilian ship. This is another sign of the need to stop the spread of Iranian influence in the region and around the world – and its influence on its affiliates. This is what we are doing under the umbrella of CENTCOM in the region.”

Israel has formed a strong partnership with Greece and Cyprus over the past decade, especially against the backdrop of deteriorating ties with Turkey. Wide-ranging security relationships include joint military exercises, intelligence cooperation and more.

The outgoing minister spent his final days in office trying to stabilize Israel’s regional ties to give his successor time to catch up on the issues involved.

Gantz’s brief visit to Greece should also be seen in the context of Israel’s rapprochement with Turkey over the past year, which has raised concerns in Athens about its impact on the alliance with Israel. Senior Israeli officials wanted to reassure the Greeks that the restoration of relations with Ankara would be measured and limited in its scope and would not come at the expense of the Hellenic alliance with Greece and Cyprus.

Gantz and the officials who traveled with him to Turkey last month conveyed a similar message to their hosts there, offering Israel’s help in easing the protracted dispute between Greece and Turkey. Today in Athens, Gantz told his Greek counterpart that Israel “should try to leverage its ties and relationships in order to build bridges for peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean”.

Joining Panagiotopoulos during a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Gantz made a point of stressing the importance Israel places on ties with Athens. “Israel sees Greece as a strategic partner, and together with Cyprus we will continue to strengthen our trilateral alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Panagiotopoulos, for his part, said Greece is “committed to maintaining this ever-increasing momentum and also to enriching our defense industrial cooperation.”

In summary, Gantz said, “We must act together in the face of threats and also take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to us. This is how we build and expand the regional architecture against terrorism in the Middle East; this is how we worked to reach an important agreement on the maritime border with Lebanon; and this is how we can try to leverage Israel’s connections and relations with the countries of the region, as a bridge for stability and peace also with our Eastern Mediterranean partners.”

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