Greece and Israel to launch disaster response plan

Israel and Greece have agreed to coordinate their responses to regional natural disasters, such as the Carmel forest fire.

As Israeli firefighters struggled to put out the devastating blaze last December, Greece was one of a number of countries to respond to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plea for international assistance.

Greece only gave diplomatic recognition to Israel 20 years ago, but over the last few years the relationship has been bolstered with mutual visits by senior politicians and growing numbers of Israeli tourists choosing Greece rather than its neighbour Turkey for a holiday destination.

And in a sign of the increasingly warm ties between the two Mediterranean countries, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman met his Greek counterpart Dimitris Droutsas in Athens this week – the first such visit in more than15 years.

The pair discussed establishing partnerships in the energy, environment and technology sectors.

They also discussed setting up a regional disaster relief force, with Greece pledging to encourage the Palestinian Authority and others in the region including Turkey, Egypt and Jordan to join.

Mr Lieberman said: "We have agreed to form a group to deal with emergency disasters.”

The Israeli foreign minister, who arrived in Greece for a four-day visit on Wednesday, also spent time with the Athens Jewish community and visited the city’s Holocaust memorial.

Last updated: 11:55am, January 14 2011