Greek Israeli Ties on the Increase

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JERUSALEM, Israel - At a time when the rift with its former ally, Turkey, is widening, Israel is looking to broaden ties with other Mediterranean countries.

This week, Israel and Greece held their first joint military exercise, evidence of the warming relationship between the two countries.

The four-day joint combat search-and-rescue exercise in southern Greece - involving eight Israeli helicopters and three Greek helicopters and six fighter jets - ends Thursday.

"This training included flight and landing in mountainous terrain and under changing weather conditions," the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office said in a press release.

"The IAF aircraft that took part in the exercise were Black Hawk (UH-60) helicopters from the Hatzerim Air Force base and Apache (AH-64) helicopters from the "Ramon" Air Force base. The aircrafts trained alongside Hellenic Air Force helicopters (Apache AH-64 and AS332 Super Puma) and combat jets," the statement read.

Last spring, Greece suspended a planned military exercise with Israel after the May 31 confrontation aboard the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara, the flagship of a six-vessel flotilla, which included Greek vessels.

But tensions seemed to have subsided as video tapes of the incident, along with information about the pro-Palestinian activists, began surfacing shortly afterward.

In July, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou paid the first state visit to Israel since the 1992 visit of former prime minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis. Netanyahu reciprocated with a visit to Greece in August.

The two premiers hit it off when they met at a restaurant in Moscow last February, according to a report in The Jerusalem Post.

This week's military exercise is one more indication of the warming relations between Israel and Greece, both of which stand to benefit by broadening their strategic ties.

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