Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made his first trip abroad since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Joined by a cabinet delegation to Jerusalem, Mr. Mitsotakis was in Israel to discuss the COVID-19 situation and to promote a trilateral natural-gas consortium with Cyprus.
News that Greece has opened its main airports to mostly EU visitors this week was a topic on the table as Mitsotakis met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Given the fact that some 1.2 million Israelis travel to Greece each year, the resumption of flights and visits from Israel is a big deal for the Greeks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped that as of August 1st, that travelers to and from Greece would not be required to self-quarantine – a de facto resumption of airline traffic. Mr. Netanyahu told reporters at the meeting:
“This also depends on what happens with the coronavirus pandemic, but if the numbers allow it, this is the target date for opening the skies.”
Israel sees the Greek visit as an opportunity to dilute European opposition to its planned annexation of West Bank land which the Palestinians want for a state. For the Greek prime minister, Israeli support in the wake of Turkey tensions, and the economic impact of Israeli tourism were first on his agenda.
The two leaders issued a joint statement following their meeting at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jerusalem. PM Mitsotakis added that foreign tourists are important to Greece and his country will prioritize tourists’ health and safety: “If all goes to plan, on August 1st we’ll open tourist destinations to Israelis,” he said.
Mitsotakis also noted the “tremendous importance” of trilateral relations with Israel and Cyprus. Mitsotakis said the joint Israeli-Greek gas pipeline project is “of great significance” for Europe as a whole.