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15 August, 2020
 
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Cyprus, Greece to be Israeli tourists' first destination, Netanyhu says

If all fares well, Israel plans to kickstart its tourist season on August 1, the Israeli PM said after a meeting with his Greek counterpart

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he aims to resume regular flights to and from Israel by August 1, noting Greece and Cyprus will be the first destination for Israeli tourists.

In joint statements after his meeting with the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said 1.2 million Israeli tourists visited Greece in 2019, a figure three times higher than the numbers recorded in previous years.

If all fares well with the country’s coronavirus pandemic, Netanyahu said he aims for a full opening of the tourism sector by August 1.

"This also depends on what happens with the coronavirus pandemic, but if the numbers allow it, this is the target date for opening the skies," he told reporters alongside Mitsotakis.

Greece reopened its main airports in Athens and Thessaloniki to more international flights on Monday, hoping to kick-start its vital tourism sector after three months in lockdown.

All other airports across the country will open to international flights on July 1.

Regional tensions

Mitsotakis, on his first trip abroad since the pandemic erupted, brought a cabinet delegation to Jerusalem in a show of confidence in mutual health measures and to promote a trilateral natural-gas consortium with Cyprus.

With Greece, Israel and Cyprus partnered up on energy projects in the eastern Mediterranean, Mitsotakis warned against what he called Turkey's "aggressive behavior."

He cited "recent incidents of illegal and provocative Turkish behaviour at our sea, air and land border" and "the destabilising effect that Turkey has made vis-a-vis its relationship with Libya".

Turkey, which has declared part of the eastern Mediterranean a shared exploration area with Libya, says it is within its sovereign rights.

Israel sees the Greek visit as an opportunity to dilute European opposition to its planned annexation of occupied West Bank land which the Palestinians want for a state.

"We expect Greece to be an anchor of support for us in the Union," Yossi Amrani, the Israeli ambassador to Athens, told Israel's Army Radio when asked about the annexation plan.

TAGS
Greece  |  Israel  |  Cyprus  |  tourism  |  Turkey

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