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Thanks to a COVID-19 green card decided upon by leaders in Athens and Tel Aviv, vaccinated Israeli visitors will now sun themselves on Greek beaches.

Another group of people will be crossing the Mediterranean with the tourists: Israeli defense contractors.

They’re working on a $1.68 billion project to develop and run a new air force training school in Kalamata, Greece, that was awarded to Israel’s Elbit Systems last year.

Together, the defense relations and tourist flows reflect an emerging relationship between Greece and Israel, which is taking root against the backdrop of Israel’s rapprochement with Arab neighbors and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s more assertive foreign policy.

“Since the late 2000s our relationship has progressed with leaps and bounds,” Dimitris Kairidis, a politician with Greece’s governing New Democracy Party, said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

Those feelings were shared by Eran Lerman, vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security. From 2009 to 2015, he served as Israel’s deputy national security advisor, calling for closer relations between the two countries.


In 2016, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus, the neighboring country, formed the tripartite system, under which the three countries hold annual high-level summits in Nicosia.
One of the tripartite’s initial objectives was to move the EastMed Gas Pipeline forward.

The project aims to transport Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe through Turkish-disputed waters. According to Lerman, the relationship has progressed beyond this stage.

“It is no longer just about gas,” he told Al Jazeera. “If you look at the text coming out of the tripartite statements the agenda is very broad.”

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In March, the three countries’ energy ministers signed a memorandum of understanding to lay the EuroAsia Interconnector, an undersea cable that will connect Cyprus and Israel’s energy grids to the European continent.

Another field where the Mediterranean neighbors hope to collaborate is in the promotion of tourism in the region. This priority is shown by the pace at which Greece and Cyprus rolled out a vaccine green card with Israel.

The partnership between these countries, Kairidis told Al Jazeera, reflects the “emergence of a new region” in which “countries will work together in a dynamic world shifting to regional power blocs.”


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