Greek Defense Minister Panos Beglitis on Sunday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on security cooperation with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, the Greek Defense Ministry has announced.
The defense memorandum, which focuses on security concerns and defense cooperation between the countries, was signed during Beglitis' visit to Israel.
“I come as my country's defense minister to state our political will as a government, as well as the majority of the country's political forces, for the two countries, the two governments, the two peoples, to work together so that we can further develop and deepen our bilateral relations in all sectors of mutual interest and concern,” Beglitis was quoted as saying from Jerusalem on Sunday by defencegreece.com, a nongovernmental defense blog that focuses on security matters in Greece and Greek Cyprus.
The MoU comes at a time when a diplomatic crisis erupted between former allies Israel and Turkey, with Turkey imposing sanctions on Israel on Friday in the aftermath of a failed rapprochement over an Israeli raid on a Turkish charity flotilla that killed nine Turks onboard in May 2010.
Beglitis, however, noted that the memorandum of cooperation was not signed under the influence of the current condition between Turkey and Israel, in words that aimed at refuting claims that Greece was exploiting the tension between Israel and Turkey. Turkish and Greek relations have remained remittent for decades, reaching critical lows when tension escalated over territorial rights in the Aegean Sea and Cyprus, an island divided into a Turkish and Greek side for more than three decades.
Beglitis' visit is the first official visit by a Greek defense minister to Israel, but the Sunday memorandum is the follow-up of a previous memorandum of cooperation between Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, last year.
The memorandum was speculated to be an attempt at changing dynamics in the region in light of the recent crisis between Israel and Turkey. On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced sanctions to be imposed on the Israeli administration for its refusal to comply with Turkish demands for an apology and compensation for the loss of life on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship sailing as part of a flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip. Turkish sanctions included precautions to secure free navigation in the Mediterranean, which hinted at the possibility of military conflict between the Turkish and Israeli navies in the region due to Israel's blockade over Gaza. Turkey is projected to take the Gaza issue to international courts later this week to force Israel into lifting the tight military blockade.