THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Thursday to promote plans for an ambitious Mediterranean undersea natural gas pipeline project, in a bid by his country to become a key European energy supplier.
Israel is hoping to export much of its newly discovered natural gas to Europe by a proposed 2,200-kilometer (1,350-mile) undersea pipeline to Cyprus and Greece.
“It’s something we’re very excited about,” Netanyahu said in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city.
“Of course the idea of the East Med pipeline would be a revolution. We’ve had preliminary studies of it. It seems promising and we’re going to look further.”
Netanyahu met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, after the three countries signed a joint declaration in Tel Aviv in April to promote construction of the pipeline.
Greece and Israel are also planning an undersea electricity cable link and are also considering a Mediterranean data cable.
Once frosty, Israel’s ties with Greece and Cyprus have markedly improved in recent years, coinciding with a spat between Israel and regional rival Turkey.
“There’s a simple fact with Cyprus, Greece and Israel that brings us very close together. We are all democracies — real democracies,” Netanyahu said.
“And when you look at our region… that’s not a common commodity.”
The prime minister spoke of the natural partnership between the three countries and the “climate of friendship” between them.
Netanyahu also spoke of the historic cultures of Jerusalem and Athens, the “two pillars” of “our modern civilization,” extending the terms to include the three countries. “Thessaloniki in there,” he said, “Cyprus in between.”
“These are the foundations of our common values, the values of human freedom, freedom of inquiry, equal rights,” the prime minister said. “These are all conceptions that were bred in the meeting ground – the faith in God that all people are created in the image of God and deserve the same rights. These are revolutionary ideas that developed in the meeting ground of these two great cultures.”
The three countries now hold frequent joint military and civil protection exercises, including the recent “Kinyras-Saul” exercises that involved special forces from Cyprus and Israel.
Earlier on Thursday the governments of Israel and Greece issued a joint statement which affirmed the close connection between the two countries. Greece also offered to act as an “honest broker” to facilitate the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Both countries expressed “their hope for Israel’s peaceful coexistence with all its neighbors, in mutual recognition and respect and in secure and recognized borders.” The two also reaffirmed “their commitment to work together to stabilize the region and ensure a peaceful resolution of conflicts.”
Israel and Greece expressed their concerns about the spread of terrorism and the impact of mass migration from war zones in the Middle East.
More than 3,500 police officers were deployed around Thessaloniki, which historically had a large Jewish community that was almost wiped out during the Nazi occupation in World War II.
While in the city, Netanyahu was also visiting several Jewish sites, including the grounds of a planned Holocaust museum.
Later Thursday, two pro-Palestinian rallies are planned. A group of demonstrators held a separate protest inside the offices of state-run ET3 television, and a videotaped message was broadcast by the station.
“We would swap our prime minister for a Palestinian activist,” protest organizer Petros Gotsis said. “[Tsipras] is no longer on our side.”
The Times of Israel staff contributed