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An agreement reached between Japan and Greece earlier this week to improve air links by code sharing will hopefully spur bilateral ties, Grigoris Niotis, Greek deputy foreign minister, said in Tokyo on Friday.

According to the No. 2 man at the Greek Foreign Ministry, the resumption of flights between the two countries was one of the most important issues for his country since direct flights were suspended in 1994.

Niotis is here to follow up on developments in bilateral affairs since former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori visited Greece in January. He will also discuss political and economic issues with Japanese government officials.

In April, a Japanese mission to Greece paved the way for the flight agreement, which was finalized Tuesday by aviation officials of the two nations.

Niotis said he hopes the air links between the two countries will help increase the annual number of Japanese tourists visiting Greece from the current figure of roughly 100,000, a mere 1 percent of all foreign tourists the Mediterranean nation receives.

Ahead of its hosting of the 2004 Olympic Games, Greece is making efforts to improve its tourism infrastructure through the construction of a new airport near Athens and other big projects such as the Athens ring road and a subway system.

“Apart from the well known attractions of Athens and the Aegean islands, Greece has many undiscovered charms, such as villages in the mountains and ruins from the Byzantine period,” Niotis said. “It is also not well known that one can enjoy winter sports in Greece. I want more Japanese people to discover these special features of my country.”

He also expressed high hopes that investment from Japan will increase in the future from the current low level. Niotis said there has been increased interest from Japanese investors since Athens joined the euro zone.

During his trip, Niotis will travel to Hiroshima and other cities to promote the 2004 Olympics. He noted that both the Olympics, which originated in Greece, and Hiroshima are symbols of peace.

“My visit to Hiroshima is to symbolize the Greek people’s feeling for peace and to share the important spirit of the Olympic truce, a tradition from ancient Greece which says all conflicts in the world must cease during the Games.”

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