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26 November, 1998
Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai made an explicit proposal for Greek-Israeli military cooperation, similar to that between Israel and Turkey, while speaking to a group of Greek reporters here yesterday.
Mr. Mordechai, who is expected to arrive in Greece on Dec. 19, said that Israel "wants to build the same cooperation with Greece".
He categorically denied a report in the Turkish daily "Hurriyet" that the secretary general of the Israeli defense ministry reportedly said that "before examining an issue of military cooperation with Greece and Cyprus, Israel will take Turkey's vital interests into consideration."
"They are groundless and do not live up to the truth," the Israeli minister said, repeating that Israel's cooperation with Turkey "is not directed against whatever third country. Nothing has changed in our policy."
Questioned on Ankara's effort to exploit cooperation with Israel and direct it to an anti-Greek or anti-Cypriot direction, Mr. Mordechai said that "nothing has changed in relations between Israel and Turkey at this period. We want to build the same cooperation with Greece."
Mr. Mordechai said that during his visit to Greece he will be discussing naval cooperation between the two countries. He also said that a year ago he had called the Greek ambassador to Tel Aviv and had asked him whether Athens wishes to participate in the joint naval search and rescue exercises in the Mediterranean between Israel, Turkey and the US.
"We decided to conduct the exercises in the Mediterranean all together, but you decided not to participate," he said.
Mr. Mordechai also said that Israel offered to mediate between Greece and Turkey to resolve differences between the two countries.
"I believe that if we can help for a way to be found for the dispute to be resolved we will support it," he said.
Replying to a question regarding Turkey's threats of military reprisals in the event that Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles are deployed on Cyprus, Mr. Mordechai said that "we do not want any threats in our region. It is better for us to find a solution so that there is no crisis in Cyprus. This means that a solution must be found on the negotiating table and not with military measures."
Commenting on the same issue, Israeli foreign ministry officials emphasized that Israel has expressed no official position and neither has it sided with complaints made by other western countries against the deployment of the Russian missiles on Cyprus.
Source: Athens News Agency