Israel’s Lieberman visits Athens

January 12, 2011, Wednesday/ 16:45:00

The Greek and Israeli cabinets will hold a first joint meeting this year as part of accelerated efforts to end decades of cool relations and boost trade, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday.

Greece, keen to boost international investment and ease its financial crisis, maintains traditionally close relations with Arab countries but has forged closer military and economic ties in recent years with Israel.

"We will continue efforts to bring the two countries even closer," Lieberman said. "Improving economic cooperation is a challenge for the coming year."

The cabinet meeting will be held in Israel during the next three months, Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said.

Lieberman started a four-day visit to Greece Tuesday, and will also meet with Prime Minister George Papandreou and the minister of defense. The countries' air forces have held joint drills over the past two years in Greece as part of the gradual thaw, which came amid the sharp deterioration of relations between Israel and Turkey -- Greece's traditional regional rival.

Left-wing and pro-Palestinian groups are planning a protest rally in central Athens later Wednesday.

Papandreou late Tuesday telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prepare for Lieberman's visit.

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