Greek FM to Arrive in Israel for Surprise Visit Thursday Amid Tensions With Turkey

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Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias speaks during a joint statement with his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio at the Foreign Ministry in Athens, June 9, 2020.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias speaks during a joint statement with his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio at the Foreign Ministry in Athens, June 9, 2020. Credit: COSTAS BALTAS/ REUTERS

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias will visit Israel Thursday amid tensions between his country and Turkey over control of Mediterranean gas fields.

"Israel follows closely as tension rises in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel expresses its full support and solidarity with Greece in its maritime zones and its right to delimit its exclusive economic zone," read a statement by the spokesperson of Israel's Foreign Ministry.

There is an ongoing dispute between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus over gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean, based on conflicting views of how far their continental shelves extend. On Monday, tensions escalated when Turkey deployed warships to accompany a gas drilling ship.

Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said the country sides "with international law, good neighborliness and dialogue,” but at the same time will continue defending its "rights, ties and interests" in the region.

In January, Israel signed a trilatral agreement with Cyprus and Greece to export natural gas to Europe via Greece. 

The European Union is slated to discuss the matter on Friday. At the same time, Dendias will be discussing the matter with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  

Dendias' last visit to Israel was in June. Israeli officials hope to additionally discuss the opening of borders with Greece in an effort to revive the tourism industry following the pandemic fallout. Such prospects, however, currently appear miniscule, as Israel has yet to register a decline in coronavirus cases.

Also on Thursday, Israeli ministries will determine which countries would be exempt from obligatory quarantine for travelers. Passengers entering Israel from those countries will not be required to self-isolate upon arrival. This doe not mean travelers from Israel to these countries will be exempt in the same manner.  

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