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Greek President Karolos Papoulias visits Israel

Greek President H.E. Karolos Papoulias is visiting Israel on an official visit at the invitation of President Peres.

President Shimon Peres hosted Greek President H.E. Karolos Papoulias for a reception and working meeting. The Greek President is visiting Israel on an official visit at the invitation of President Peres.

President Peres thanked his guest for Greece's involvement in stopping the flotilla to Gaza: "I genuinely thank you for fulfilling the directives of the Secretary General of the United Nations by stopping the flotilla. I thank you for not allowing people interested in violating the law and disrupting order to reach Gaza which is ruled by a terror organization. Greece, in an impressive manner, showed the U.N. that she stands ready to assist. Your contribution to lower tensions benefits the entire region as well as Gaza itself. You acted legally and carefully and I thank you for your personal involvement in this matter."

The President added that Gaza is controlled by a terror government that seeks to smuggle large quantities of weapons from Iran to Gaza. "I recently saw a sign on one of the boats that said "Free Gaza." We must say loud and clear - Gaza must free itself from the terror in its midst. At the same time Israel is extending its hand in peace all the time towards our neighbors and yearn for the day when Gaza will be a prosperous city, free of the terrorist rule of Hamas."

President Peres also emphasized Greece's role in helping Israel battle the recent Carmel forest fire. "Greek firefighting planes and firefighters were among the first to stand by our sides in the Carmel. No one in Israel will ever forget it. Your visit is not just another official visit, it is the start of the opening of a new chapter in Greece-Israel relations. Both of our nations share an ancient past and I believe we share a great future."

During their meeting the two leaders discussed strengthening relations between Greece and Israel in a number of areas particularly diplomatic and trade relations.

President Papoulias said to President Peres: "Greece supports Israel's developing relations with the European Union. I am personally working towards building a triumvirate of cooperation between Greece, Cyprus, and Israel in many areas including energy like the recent natural gas exploration, research and science, as well as diplomatic and trade relations. I am very happy to visit Israel and it is a great honor to meet you, Mr. President. Greece is located in the Mediterranean Sea and as a result is directly influenced by what happens in the region. We are of course interested in advancing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians and are working towards this end within the framework of the European Union."

The Greek President also said that Greece is currently experiencing the worst economic crisis in their history and he would be glad to receive any advice from President Peres, who served as Prime Minister during Israel's worst economic crisis in the 1980s and emerged stronger. He also thanked President Peres for the "warm reception he has received in Israel."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today (Tuesday), 11 July 2011, met with Greek President Karolos Papoulias and thanked him for Greece's great help during the Carmel wildfire and in stopping the flotilla. The Prime Minister noted the deep friendship between Greece and Israel and added that bilateral economic and tourism cooperation should be strengthened and enhanced.

Regarding the flotilla, Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out that growth in the Gaza Strip stood at 25% and that all food items were entering the Strip. "Whoever wants to free Gaza must work to free it from the Hamas regime, which acts cruelly and harshly toward minorities - and those who seek peace - in the Strip," he said.

Regarding the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he was ready to sit down with the Palestinians tomorrow morning and begin direct negotiations and expressed his regrets that they were refusing.

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