Turkey is the key to blossoming Greece-Israel relations - WSJ

Turkey’s rising influence in the region is the key to blossoming relations between Greece and Israel, despite leftist Syriza Party’s anti-zionist stance, the Wall Street Journal said on Saturday.

Though before gaining office Syriza’s leader Alexis Tsipras called to expel Israel’s ambassador and close Greek ports to U.S. arms shipments heading to Israel, as Prime Minister he chose to intensify the relations between two countries. 

The leaders of Israel, Greece, and Cyprus are holding regular trilateral summits, while, along with Egypt, the three countries are jointly developing the eastern Mediterranean’s natural-gas reserves. 

Turkey, on the other hand, seeks to block exploration of gas by the Greek Cypriot government off the Mediterranean island with warships and military exercise plans, saying the exploration for potentially large gas reserves off Cyprus should take into account what it says are the rights of Turkish Cypriots in a breakaway state in the northern third of the island that Turkish troops invaded in 1974.

Israel and Turkey are also at odds over the blockade of the Gaza Strip and over Ankara’s support for the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, the WSJ noted. 

“We have to work in such a way as to safeguard strong geo-strategic ties with our neighbours, keeping in mind that to our east we are not neighbouring Switzerland or Liechtenstein, but a very nervous and in some cases a very aggressive neighbour,” Yiannis Bournous, Syriza’s head of international relations and Mr. Tsipras’s strategic planning chief, said yo the WSJ.

“There are two countries that want to be the cops of this region—Turkey and Israel. We have to be friends with at least one,” told another senior Greek official.

According to Israel’s Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzahi Hanegbi, Israel’s cooperation with Greece and Cyprus isn’t directed against Ankara, and Israel would like to revive close ties with Turkey. “But in the meantime, since there is this tension, we don’t sit back waiting for miracles to happen and we make sure that our ties with other neighbouring countries like Cyprus and Greece are enhanced,” Hanegbi said to the WSJ.