Israel's Peres to visit Athens for energy talks

Sunday 5 Aug 2012

Israeli president begins visit to Athens, the fifth such visit by a top Israeli official in two years

Israeli President Shimon Peres starts a three-day visit to Athens Monday on cooperation talks with Greece officials over matters of energy and defense.

In what is the fifth visit by a top Israeli official to Greece in two years, Peres is expected to hold talks Monday with both his Greek counterpart Carolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, their offices said.

Peres said Saturday Israel would like to nurture the best possible ties with Greece, adding that the two countries have much in common.

"Greece is a friend" and "we face the same problems" he said during the Saturday interview with Greek Mega Channel television.

"There is nothing controversial between us," he added.

Asked about plans to construct a new pipeline that would connect Israel with Cyprus, Greece and Europe, Peres said it was an economic and geographical must and that the country needed to better use their oil and gas reserves.

He also addressed the matter in an interview with Greek newspaper To Vima published Sunday.

He said the idea of delivering Israeli gas to Europe via Greece "has already been studied and could lead to positive results."

In June, the Jewish state wished good luck to Greek's new coalition government headed by Samaras, but also voiced concern over the rise of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which won its first seats in parliament in May.

And Israel and Greece signed an accord in March to lay an underwater electricity cable between the Mediterranean nations, the first stage in a bid to transfer power between the Jewish state and mainland Europe.

The sides hope to see the so-called "Euro-Asia Interconnect" project completed by 2016, with the cable to stretch over the 287 kilometres (178 miles) between Israel and Cyprus.

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