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Greece The Middle East
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Greek governments have traditionally pursued a policy of friendship with the Arab states. This relationship is based on both historical and contemporary factors. Greece shares with the Arabs a common history of subjugation by the Ottoman Turks, and a large proportion of Christian Arabs are of the Greek Orthodox faith. Many Arab states have had large and prosperous Greek communities within their boundaries. The largest such community was in Egypt. In the 1950s, however, the Egyptian government forced most resident foreign businessmen, including Greeks, to leave the country in an effort to foster growth in the Egyptian middle class by reducing foreign business competition.

    After the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, as the politics of the Middle East grew more complex, Greece called for Israel's evacuation of all occupied Arab land and supported the Palestinian struggle for an independent homeland. At the same time, Greece supported Israel's right to exist within safe and internationally guaranteed borders; this position was consistent with Greece's de facto recognition since 1948 of Israel's right to statehood.

    In the wake of the oil crisis and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, both in the mid-1970s, Greece's Middle East policy appeared to slant strongly toward the Arabs. The change was dictated by two needs: for Arab support for Greece's Cyprus policies and for stable oil supplies from the Arab oil producers.

    In the 1980s, PASOK administrations followed an actively pro-Arab policy, culminating in the granting of diplomatic status to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), whose connection with terrorist acts had made it an outcast to most Western nations. Even while PASOK support of the PLO was unwavering and contacts increased with hard-line Arab states such as Algeria, Iraq, Syria, and Libya, the Greek socialist regime also pursued a parallel policy of greater accommodation with Israel.

    The end of the 1980s brought a significant change in Greek policy in the Middle East, an event not unexpected in view of the negligible gains that the pro-Arab policy had made for the Greek cause in Cyprus. The end of the Cold War and the outcome of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, pointed to a potentially different Mediterranean region free from the chilling prospect of superpower confrontations. After its full de jure recognition of Israel in 1990, Greece has maintained cordial ties and strong economic bonds with all the states at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.

    In the 1980s and early 1990s, the Greek political system showed signs of stabilization after many decades of drastic shifts from civilian to military and liberal to conservative governance. In the 1980s, ND changed leaders without dissolving into factions, and PASOK was expected to do the same eventually upon the retirement of Andreas Papandreou. The year 1994 marked twenty years of domination by those two parties. Although political power has continued to shift frequently between conservative and liberal parties, both main party platforms have moderated in domestic and in foreign policy. The largest remaining question for Greek democracy is how quickly the old clientalist relationships, which still prosper in many quarters, can be shed in favor of a more appropriately varied representation of public interests.

    As it entered the mid-1990s, Greece found itself in a generally better-balanced geopolitical environment than it had enjoyed during most of the twentieth century. The heavy reliance on the United States and NATO for national security eased greatly when the bipolar nature of European military configuration ended and NATO began considering new international roles (and new members) for itself. The chronic and multifaceted disputes with Turkey remained an unresolved threat to national security, however, and multiple crises with the former communist nations to the north found Greece taking controversial positions that earned the disapproval of Western allies.

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    Among the most useful recent works on Greek politics are several collections of articles on social, political, and economic facets of socialist rule in the 1980s. They include two volumes edited by Richard Clogg, Greece in the 1980s and Greece 1981-1989: The Populist Decade; Political Change in Greece Before and after the Colonels, edited by Kevin Featherstone and D.K. Katsoudas; The Greek Socialist Experiment, edited by Theodore C. Kariotis; and Greece, the New Europe, and the Changing International Order, edited by Harry J. Psomiades and Stavros Thomadakis.

    Nicos Mouzelis's Politics in the Semi-Periphery: Early Parliamentarism and Late Industrialization in the Balkans and Latin America provides insight into the current Greek political setting. English and Greek editions of the Southeast European Yearbook focus on additional aspects of foreign affairs and document official government positions, facts, and figures. In Entangled Allies: U.S. Policy Toward Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus, Monteagle Stearns covers a central problem in Greek foreign relations; an equally timely discussion of Greek attitudes toward the outside world is Modern Greece: Nationalism and Nationality, edited by Martin Blinkhorn and Thanos Veremis. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

    Data as of December 1994

    NOTE: The information regarding Greece on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Greece The Middle East information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Greece The Middle East should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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