Greece Allows 600 Israelis a Week to Visit Four Greek Locations

YERUSHALAYIM -
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias (L) with
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in Yerushalayim. (Foreign Ministry)

Six hundred Israeli tourists a week will be allowed to visit four Greek locations without the need for mandatory quarantine upon arrival, starting next week, according to an agreement signed between the two countries on Thursday. The locations are Athens, Thessaloniki as well as the islands of Crete and Carpo.

The tourists will be required to undergo a coronavirus test before boarding their flight in Israel and upon landing in Greece. The Israelis will be required to self-isolate until they receive the test results. They will not be required to quarantine upon their return in Israel. It was not yet known who will be asked to pay for the tests. 

Israelis will not be able to visit the rest of the country because states in the European Union are not permitted to accept tourists from countries with a high coronavirus infection rate.

Greek officials have agreed to the deal in principal on Wednesday, in a phone conversation between Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias. Dendias arrived in Israel early Thursday to finalize the details.

“The decision expresses the warm relationship between the countries and the common desire to return to normal life in the coronavirus era,” said Ashkenazi.

Ashkenazi said that he hopes more European countries will follow suit. The counterparts met at Ashkenazi’s office in Yerushalayim.

Dendias is set to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later in the day to discuss the resumption of tourism and shared concerns over Turkey’s energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean. 

Turkey and Greece, NATO allies, are vehemently at odds over overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources in the region, and tensions have risen since Ankara launched exploration operations in a disputed area of the Mediterranean on Monday, in a move Greece called illegal.

Netanyahu spoke with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis earlier in the summer regarding the opening of borders between the two countries, but the decision was held up as Israel entered its second wave of coronavirus and consequently delayed the original date of August 1.