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Greek defense minister: Turkey won’t be Israel’s friend

Ankara wants to lead Islamic world, says Panos Kammenos, adds that Jerusalem-Athens defense alliance second only to that with US

Panos Kammenos in France, 2013. (Wikipedia/dupontaignan/CC BY-SA 2.0)
Panos Kammenos in France, 2013. (Wikipedia/dupontaignan/CC BY-SA 2.0)

There is little chance that Israel will be able to rehabilitate its ties with Turkey, Greece’s defense minister told Israeli journalists on Thursday.

“The fact the Turkey trades with Daesh [Islamic State], as Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has described, funds Daesh, and allows its fighters to enter and leave Syria raises questions in both Israel and Greece,” Panos Kammenos told Israel Radio in an interview while on a visit to Israel.

“A state that behaves this way,” he added, “I don’t believe you have much chance to rehabilitate your ties with Turkey. Turkey’s isolation is growing, and its stance toward Israel remains as hostile as in the past.”

Kammenos noted that Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last year said he longed to see the Palestinian flag flying over Jerusalem.

“Turkey’s behavior as an Islamist state that seeks to lead the Muslim world doesn’t fit its alleged desire to restore relations with Israel,” he added.

Kammenos’s harsh rhetoric comes as Greece seeks to strengthen its alliance with Israel, considered a regional military superpower, as both countries face an activist and often hostile Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Muslim-oriented AKP party.

“The defensive and strategic agreement I have signed with Minister Ya’alon,” Kammenos said of the new defense agreements between the two nations, “is like no other that Israel has, except that with the United States. The agreement is a defensive barrier that begins in Israel, continues through Cyprus and ends in Greece.”

This week’s visit to Israel was Kammenos’s third in recent weeks, while Greece’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras has also visited twice, together with other ministers. Last month, a trilateral summit of the leaders of Israel, Greece and Cyprus met in the island nation to discuss security and energy cooperation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasides, center and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras shake hands during a meeting at the presidential palace in the Cypriot capital, January 28, 2016. (Yiannis Kourtoglou, Pool Photo via AP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasides, center and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras shake hands during a meeting at the presidential palace in the Cypriot capital, January 28, 2016. (Yiannis Kourtoglou, Pool Photo via AP)

Greece, too, has been mistreated by Ankara, Kammenos told Israel Radio.

“In the past two days, the rate of refugees fleeing to Greece [through Turkey] grew five-fold,” the defense minister said, insisting that Turkey could control the number of people passing through its territory. “It uses them as hostages, as negotiating chips with the European Union,” he charged.

Turkey has also recently increased its unauthorized overflights of Greek territory, he said.

Israel’s relatively new status as a regional energy power following the discovery of massive offshore natural gas reserves also played a role in the alliance, Kammenos indicated. On both energy and counterterrorism, Israel and Greece stand to benefit greatly from working together, he said.

“The joint battle against terror is important also for our cooperation on gas. Our shared success in the energy field constitutes a counterweight to the oil that today comes from Daesh [IS]. Energy cooperation will certainly help in the battle against terror.”

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