Welcome to Jerusalem, Prime Minister Papandreou.
We're still trying to find out if this is the first official visit of a Greek Prime Minister to Israel. It certainly the first official visit in many, many decades and I'm very pleased to welcome you here today.
Historically, Athens and Jerusalem were the two founts of our common civilization. So much of the progress, freedom, culture and values of the world we live in today were shaped by ideas that were born in Athens and in Jerusalem, and of course our relationship proceeded in modern times with the Jews of Greece, the Jews of Saloniki who are an important part of our modern rebirth.
Today, modern Greece and modern Israel are pillars of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and I believe great partners in the quest for peace - the peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors and the peace in the entire region. I welcome the opportunity of your visit to explore how to do this - how to deepen the relationship and the friendship between our two countries, and how to strengthen all our ties, beginning with economic ties.
The first time we met was in Moscow. I had the opportunity to discuss with you the enormous challenges that you were facing at the time. Today, I'll have the opportunity to hear about some of the additional steps you've taken in order to meet those challenges.
Believe me Prime Minister, I know how difficult economic reform can be. We appreciate everything that you are doing and I want to do everything I can to improve Israel and Greece's economic ties for the benefit of both our countries and I think we have much to do. We know that to maintain the standard of living of advanced countries, we need technology, we need modernity. This is something that we can share in abundance, to the benefit of our peoples.
One of the things that we had a chance to talk about briefly is of course the challenge posed by Iran's quest for nuclear weapons. I have just come back from Washington. I appreciated the fact that President Obama signed into law a tough US sanctions bill, and I hope that Greece and other European countries follow America's lead on this.
Equally, I know that you're going today to see President Abbas and we discussed our commitment and our willingness to enter direct peace negotiations - not really to negotiate, but to seek a conclusion of an historic peace agreement. You have voiced your willingness to help us in that effort and I welcome that and I thank you for that. I believe that if both sides are willing to compromise, if both sides are willing to end the conflict, then an historic agreement is possible. There are many skeptics; I'm not one of them, and I know you're not one of them.
So, I will say again that we're grateful for all your efforts - both to strengthen our economic and bilateral ties but also to strengthen and expand the circle of peace, something that we yearn for and our people yearn for, and I know that is a goal that you share.
Welcome to Jerusalem.