An association of American Jewish community leaders began Tuesday a first-ever visit to Greece in the latest demonstration of Greek efforts to improve relations with Israel, officials said.
Around 60 representatives of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations were to visit Athens and Thessaloniki for talks with Greek state and Jewish community officials, a Thessaloniki community leader said.
"This visit is held at the invitation of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou," said David Saltiel, chairman of the Thessaloniki Jewish community.
The visit to February 13 is part of an annual trip to Israel by the group, a central coordinating body that represents 52 American Jewish agencies across the political and religious spectrum.
Athens only officially recognized Israel in 1991. Papandreou has now stepped up efforts to attract Jewish investment to Greece's debt-struck economy.
This is the organization's first visit to Greece according to the government.
'Relations with Israel have never been better'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermam both recently visited Athens and Greek officials have also travelled to Israel to discuss potential projects in recent months.
"Relations with Israel have never been better," Saltiel told AFP.
"There is daily contact between Greek and Israeli ministers... and this also strikes a blow against anti-Semitism."
Over the years, Greek Jewish leaders have repeatedly complained to the authorities over vandal attacks targeting community cemeteries and monuments.
The Greek government last year was also forced to condemn televised claims by a prominent bishop that world Zionism is trying to destroy nations and that Jewish capital had bankrolled Adolf Hitler.
A flourishing centuries-old Jewish community centered on Thessaloniki was decimated by Nazi deportations and now numbers around 6,000 people.
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