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Israel, Greece to Set Up Joint Ministerial Panel


Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, left, and his Greek counterpart Dimitris Droutsas shake hands in Athens, Greece, 12 Jan 2011

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, left, and his Greek counterpart Dimitris Droutsas shake hands in Athens, Greece, 12 Jan 2011

Israel and Greece have agreed to set up a joint ministerial panel as part of efforts to end decades of cool relations and strengthen bilateral cooperation.

Officials announced plans to form the panel as Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman began a two-day visit to Greece Wednesday.

Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said the panel's first meeting will be held in Israel sometime in the next few months. He spoke after meeting Wednesday with Lieberman, who said both countries are eager to improve economic cooperation.

Lieberman also plans to hold talks with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, President Karolos Papoulias and Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

The two sides are expected to discuss trade and energy cooperation, as well as regional issues of concern.

This is the first visit by an Israeli foreign minister to Greece in more than 15 years.

In August, Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Israeli prime minister to visit Greece. That visit came a month after Mr. Papandreou traveled to Israel and offered to play a role in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Israel's relations with Greece's regional rival, Turkey, remain tense following an Israeli commando raid in May 2010 on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla carrying pro-Palestinian activists. Nine Turks died in the raid.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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