Greek PM to visit Israel Tuesday for talks on energy, annexation
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Greek PM to visit Israel Tuesday for talks on energy, annexation

With six ministers in tow, Kyriakos Mitsotakis to lead largest delegation to Israel since start of pandemic; no Ramallah stop planned. Cypriot president due next week

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, left, visits the town of Fira in Satorini, June 13, 2020. (Dimitris Papamitsos/ Greek Prime Minister's Office via AP)
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, left, visits the town of Fira in Satorini, June 13, 2020. (Dimitris Papamitsos/ Greek Prime Minister's Office via AP)

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will travel to Israel on Tuesday for wide-ranging talks covering energy and his counterpart’s controversial plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Mitsotakis will lead the largest high-level delegation to Israel since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with six ministers in tow including defense and tourism.

Their overnight stay follows a visit to Jerusalem last week by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who voiced European discontent at Israeli proposals to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.

The step forms part of a peace plan unveiled by US President Donald Trump in January, which has been backed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wholly rejected by the Palestinians.

“We will discuss the peace plan of President Trump and we will talk about energy and the EastMed [gas pipeline], stability in the Middle East with an emphasis on Iran and Lebanon,” Iris Ambor, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Southern Europe Department, told journalists on Monday.

Israel, Greece and Cyprus in January signed the EastMed deal for a huge pipeline to ship gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, despite objections from Turkey.

Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, center, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiadis, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pose for a photograph ahead of a signing ceremony in Athens for a pipeline to carry natural gas from the eastern Meditteranean to Europe January 2, 2020. (AP Photo)

Mitsotakis will hold talks with Netanyahu on Tuesday and the following day visit Jerusalem’s Holocaust memorial site Yad Vashem, Ambor said.

The Greece delegation will not travel to the West Bank city of Ramallah, headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, according to Israeli officials.

The European Union is weighing retaliatory measures as a response to Israeli annexation, which could begin from July 1, although sanctions would require the agreement of all 27 member states.

Israel is counting on European allies such as Austria and Hungary — who last month refused to back a resolution against annexation — and “friendly” countries such as Greece and Cyprus to tone down the EU response.

“Our request to Greece is to support us at the EU level, to make sure the European Union has sensible language when dealing with the peace plan,” an Israeli source told AFP.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and five ministers will make a one-day visit to Jerusalem next week, Israeli officials said.

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