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Greek PM to visit Israel to talk energy and annexation

Israel and Greece signed a gas pipeline deal with Cyprus earlier this year [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 June, 2020

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Israel hopes to avoid sanctions from the EU with the help of friendly countries like Greece.
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 large parts of the occupied 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 defence 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," Israeli foreign ministry official Iris Ambor 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.

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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