Israel and Greece have signed their biggest ever defense procurement deal, which Israel said on Sunday would strengthen political and economic ties between the countries.
The agreement includes a $1.65 billion contract for the establishment and operation of a training center for the Hellenic Air Force by Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems over a 22-year period, Israel's defense ministry said.
"The deal is the result of the strong and long-lasting relations between Israel and Greece, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Sunday thanking his Greek counterpart for his efforts to facilitate the transaction.
"I am certain that (this program) will upgrade the capabilities and strengthen the economies of Israel and Greece and thus the partnership between our two countries will deepen on the defense, economic and political levels," Gantz said
The training center will be modeled on Israel's own flight academy and will be equipped with 10 M-346 training aircraft produced by Italian company Leonardo, the ministry said.
Elbit will supply kits to upgrade and operate Greece's T-6 aircraft and also provide training, simulators and logistical support.
The announcement came following a meeting in Cyprus on Friday between the UAE, Greek, Cypriot and Israeli foreign ministers, who agreed to deepen cooperation between their countries.
"The evolving web of regional cooperation is creating a new narrative, one that is cracking the glass ceiling of the prevailing (one) of our neighbourhood as a region of turmoil, conflict and crisis," said Cypriot Foreign Minister and host Nikos Christodoulides.
Friday's meeting on the east Mediterranean island was attended by Anwar Gargash, a former UAE foreign minister who worked on the historic normalization of relations with Israel last year. He was there in his capacity as diplomatic advisor to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed.
"The Abrahamic accords were mainly driven by the necessity of an alternative strategic view of the region based on stability, prosperity and opportunity," Gargash said of the forging of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Bahrain, signed last September at the White House.
Discussions in Cyprus, he said, focused on ways to enhance joint action in facing the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, medical research and the distribution of vaccines, as well as energy security in the region.
"This meeting is one of the results of the changes that have taken place in the Middle East over the past year, thanks to a brave and bold decision by leaders," Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said on Friday.
First published: 11:50 , 04.18.21