Israeli Ambassador to Greece Yossi Amrani described relations between Greece and Israel as “strong, strategic,” a relationship that “is not yet fully realised, as there is much more to achieve, a lot more to accomplish,” while speaking to Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) from Thessaloniki, where on Sunday he was expected to address the 2nd Thessaloniki Regional Forum, held there on February 7-9.
In view of realizing the full potential of this bond between the two countries, Amrani noted his firm belief “that the current political situation in Israel is of no concern to the relationship,” as he believes it is desirable to see this relationship grow deeper in both cultural and political terms, a prospect which is “supported by both countries’ strong leadership.”
“The geostrategic potential for this relationship is very clear and it is up to us on both sides to make it happen,” he observed.
Amrani said that Greeks and Israelis do visit each other’s countries, that Israelis do invest in real estate and tourism in Greece, but expressed his persuasion that beyond these, there is “more potential for joint ventures.”
He mentioned a current scientific cooperation between researchers at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki and Israeli scientists, “therein,” he said “lies the future of the relationship – through scientific cooperation, along with its economic application.”
The ambassador called the EastMed pipeline project, recently co-signed by Greece, Cyprus and Israel, as “a very important infrastructural project, one of a certain strategic, economic, political added value and good will on behalf of Israel, Greece, Cyprus,” and expressed his vision of how “we need to find a market and a destination for the EastMed.”
Concerning Israel’s relations with Turkey, Amrani said these “are very important to Israel (…) but not currently the best, yet we hope will improve in the future.”
“Turkey is not an enemy country for us. Turkey is an important country in the region,” he noted and further clarified that “Turkey is a country with history in the region and we do hope we will have a normal dialogue with Turkey, as we used to have in the past. But this does not substitute or replace the relationship with Greece.”
Amrani pointed out that Israel “hopes for stability, peace and security in this region.”
On Trump’s Middle-East plan and the Palestinian and Iranian reactions to it, Amrani said he hopes that “this proposal will be an incentive for the Palestinians to realize that the best way to achieve their legitimate national aspirations and national goals is through negotiations.”
The Israeli ambassador dispelled Iranian reactions as not as significant as “their attitude towards Israel and the wider region, and their nuclear plans and long-range missiles, these are much more a concern than the reaction to the Trump deal of the century,” weighed Amrani.
Speaking of solutions in the Middle-East and the Syrian crisis, the Israeli diplomat said he hopes that “after the end of this particular crisis, Syria will maintain its territorial integrity.”
He did, however, add that there is currently “a very strong Iranian contingent in Syria and that’s not a very positive contribution to regional stability.” He highlighted that “Syrian people should find a way to end the war and rebuild their country, as they have an important role to play in the Arab world and the Mediterranean.”
“Syria should not be an arena for the showdown of foreign powers,” he stressed.
Finally, the Israeli ambassador praised PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ recent visit to Auschwitz on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and said he is pleased with the government’s commitment to finally erect the Holocaust Museum in Thessaloniki, “a monument to a very powerful, very important Jewish community.”
Concluding, Amrani said he is “very happy” to have been invited to Mount Athos, Greece’s Orthodox cluster of monasticism.
“I am not Christian, I am not religious and I am not a monk,” mused Amrani, “but it was fascinating,” he exclaimed.