Israel and Greece sign $1.65 billion military deal
Israel and Greece signed a record military agreement including a $1.65 billion contract for a training centre for the Greek air force, Israeli Defence Ministry Benny Gantz said on Sunday.
The contract will go to establish and operate the Hellenic Air Force's new centre, which will be operated by Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems for the next 22 years and based on the Israeli flight academy.
The centre will consist of ten Italian M-346 training aircraft, while Elbit will also be in charge of upgrading and operating Greece's T-6 aircraft through kits. Training will be given via simulators with logistical support provided.
"I am certain that [this programme] will upgrade the capabilities and strengthen the economies of Israel and Greece and thus the partnership between our two countries will deepen on the defence, economic and political levels," Benny Gantz said.
The Israeli and Greek air forces also held joint exercises on in Greek skies on Sunday.
"The Israelis do not trust easily, especially in the field of defence," Costas Filis, a professor of international relations in Athens, told VOA News.
"So, this deal is not only important for the qualitative edge it will give Greece's new generation of pilots and armed forces as a whole, but because of the serious message it puts out - that a solid and new depth of relations has been consolidated between Athens and Jerusalem."
The Israeli declaration came after a meeting between the UAE, Greek, Cypriot and Israeli foreign ministers in Cyprus on Friday.
"This new strategic membership stretches from the shores of the Arabian Gulf" to the Mediterranean and Europe, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said about the meeting.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias stressed calls for "the withdrawal of all foreign forces" from the North African country, where Turkish troops are posted.