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Israel Hails Mitsotakis Planned Visit, Energy, Military Cooperation

Αssociated Press

FILE- Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, left, welcomes his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in Athens, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

ATHENS -- Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ upcoming visit Israel is expected to further tighten ties, especially over energy plans as well as military cooperation in the face of constant Turkis provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean.

The trip is “symbolic and very important,” said a senior Israeli official who briefed Greek journalists in the Greek capital about Mitsotakis' first trip out of the country since the COVID-19 Coronavirus hit earlier this year.

The two countries are expected to sign a number of agreements on tourism, agricultural cooperation, cybersecurity and technology, said Kathimerini, with the Israeli official saying the value of the bilateral relationship between Greece and Israel is “independent” and is “not related to a third state.”

He also said that Israel wants to expand its already strong bilateral defense cooperation, saying that “we are two pillars of stability in this region and our cooperation is vital.”

During the visit, six Greek ministers will participate in a a high-level Greek-Israeli ministerial council.

In January, Greece, Israel and Cyprus signed a deal Thursday to build an undersea pipeline to carry gas from new offshore deposits in the southeastern Mediterranean to continental Europe.

The 1,900-kilometer (1,300-mile) EastMed pipeline is intended to provide an alternative gas source for energy-hungry Europe, which is largely dependent on supplies from Russia and the Caucasus region.

Mitsotakis, who attended the signing ceremony with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, said the pipeline will offer Europe “better flexibility and independence in its energy sources.”

The pipeline would run from Israel’s Levantine Basin offshore gas reserves to Cyprus, the Greek island of Crete and the Greek mainland. An overland pipeline to northwestern Greece and another planned undersea pipeline would carry the gas to Italy then. 

The project could also accommodate future gas finds in waters off Cyprus and Greece, where exploration is under way.

The project, with a rough budget of $6 billion, is expected to satisfy about 10% of the European Union's natural gas needs. But it is fraught with political and logistical complexities.

The race to claim offshore energy deposits in the southern Mediterranean has created new tensions between Greece and Cyprus, on one side, and historic rival Turkey.