Israel`s Lieberman heads to Greece for rare visit

It will be first such visit by an Israeli foreign minister in over 15 years.

Jerusalem: Israel`s Avigdor Lieberman was on Wednesday to fly to Athens to meet the Greek leadership, his office said, in what will be the first such visit by an Israeli foreign minister in more than 15 years.

In Athens, Lieberman would hold talks with President Carolos Papoulias and Prime Minister George Papandreou, as well as meeting with Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and Minister of State for investment Haris Pamboukis, a statement from his office said.
He was also to meet with Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos as well as other senior officials, and also visit Jewish community leaders in Greece.

"Lieberman will discuss bilateral and regional issues with his hosts and other ways of broadening cooperation between the two countries," it said.

He was to leave on Wednesday and return on Sunday.

The trip comes after a similar visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in August that underscored a dramatic rapprochement with Greece after decades of frosty relations.

During that visit, the two countries reportedly set up a a joint committee for strategic and security cooperation to study ways of improving cooperation on strategic and anti-terror issues, Israeli media reports said at the time.

Netanyahu`s trip was the first time an Israeli head of government had visited to Greece, which has traditionally been pro-Arab and did not recognise the Jewish state until 1991.

The foreign minister`s visit comes as diplomatic ties between Israel and neighbouring Turkey continued to fester following an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May last year in which nine Turks were killed.

Israeli and Greek officials have made a show of saying their closer ties were not tied to the diplomatic crisis with Ankara, a traditional rival of Athens.

Bureau Report

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