Israel Looks Beyond Turkey To Strategic Partnership With Gre

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[Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister]: (male, Hebrew)
"I briefed the Greek Prime Minister Mr. Papandreou on the steps we are taking on our side in order to be able to start direct talks with the Palestinians and we hope that this will be successful."

However, the Israeli Prime Minister insisted there be no pre-conditions, which has been a traditional stumbling block in the peace process.

Netanyahu's two-day visit to Athens comes a month after a groundbreaking visit to Israel by Papandreou.

Greece has long been a close ally to Arab countries, and only recognized Israel officially some 20 years ago. Lately though, Greece has signalled a desire for closer relations, and a greater role in Middle East diplomacy.

Israel has also traditionally had closer ties with Greece's arch-foe Turkey. Yet this relationship has soured in recent years, particularly following the Israeli raid of the Turkish-backed aid flotilla to Gaza two months ago.

Adding to the complexity of shifting allegiances, there is a history of tension between Greece and Turkey, with two countries reaching the brink of war on several occasions in the late 20th century. In recent years the situation has improved greatly, but old rivalries linger.

Meanwhile, left-wing groups and activists held demonstrations in Athens on Monday afternoon to protest the flotilla raid, and Israel's policies in the Middle East.

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