By Costas Kantouris | AP June 15 at 8:40 AM
THESSALONIKI, Greece — Under heavy security, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited northern Greece on Thursday to discuss plans to become a key supplier of European energy through an ambitious Mediterranean undersea natural gas pipeline project.
Netanyahu met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city.
More than 3,500 police officers were deployed around the city, which historically had a large Jewish community that was almost wiped out during the Nazi occupation in World War II.
“The (meetings) will focus on innovation, and will deal with energy, security, strategic and financial cooperation and tourism,” Netanyahu said before the talks started.
Israel is hoping to export much of its newly discovered natural gas to Europe by a proposed 2,200-kilometer (1,350-mile) undersea pipeline to Cyprus and Greece.
Greece and Israel are also planning an undersea electricity cable link.
Israel’s ties with Greece and Cyprus have markedly improved in recent years, during a spat with regional rival Turkey.
The three countries now hold frequent joint military and civil protection exercises, including the recent “Kinyras-Saul” exercises that involved special forces from Cyprus and Israel.
While in Thessaloniki, Netanyahu was also visiting several Jewish sites in the city, including the grounds of a planned Holocaust museum.
Later Thursday, two pro-Palestinian rallies are planned. A group of demonstrators held a separate protest inside the offices of state-run ET3 television, and a videotaped message was broadcast by the station.
“We would swap our prime minister for a Palestinian activist,” protest organizer Petros Gotsis said. “(Tsipras) is no longer on our side.”
Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Greece and Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus contributed.
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