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GreeceFM Gerapetritis: Greek-Egyptian High-Level Cooperation Council meeting early 2024

FM Gerapetritis: Greek-Egyptian High-Level Cooperation Council meeting early 2024

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Greek Foreign Affairs Minister George Gerapetritis highlighted the importance of the strategic relationship between Greece and Egypt in the greater Eastern Mediterranean region, with a focus on the agreement for the delimitation of the two countries’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEC), in an interview on Al Qaheera TV.

The interview took place during the Greek minister’s visit to El Alamein to meet with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, in the context of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ visit to Egypt.

As Gerapetritis noted, the delimitation agreement was “an important agreement, not only because it essentially resolved a major issue that will allow the two countries to further develop their resources of wealth, but also because this is the pattern to follow: by discussing, negotiations, mutual compromises, and eventually reaching a win-win situation for both countries.”

Greek-Turkish relations

Speaking of Greek-Turkish relations, the Greek FM said that the two countries are in a process of rapprochement, and of resetting “a more sincere and frank relationship with Türkiye.”

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Gerapetritis said that he and his Turkish counterpart, FM Hakan Fidan, have developed a channel of communication. “What we want to do is actually try to promote a positive agenda with issues of common interest such as trade, economy, civil protection, tourism, overall development of the two countries, and then work on our relations,” he explained. “As you probably know, we do have a major dispute, which is the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and the continental shelf. The position of Greece is that International Law must be respected and especially the Law of the Sea. We are considering to refer this dispute to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.” He added that Greece is “relatively hopeful that given the tranquillity in the Aegean over the last few months we will be able to further develop our political dialogue.”

Greece-Egypt: energy, trade

Returning to the topic of Greece-Egypt relations, Gerapetritis noted that the two countries comprise a pillars of stability in the greater region, and the two countries enjoy strong and excellent bilateral relations.
The minister placed particular emphasis on the collaboration of the two countries in the energy sector, as it will be a fast-growing one in the coming decades. Commenting on the plan to transfer electricity from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to Europe through Greece, Gerapetritis said “it is very important, that countries with common views work together in the field of energy mainly in the Eastern Mediterranean. Especially when it comes to the electrical interconnection, it is crucial that we have this significant investment on the electrical interconnector between Egypt and Greece.”

Essentially, he said, the electricity connection would allow Greece to consolidate its role as an energy hub, given that this interconnection will enable the transfer of clean energy to the European Union. “This is an investment of more than 3 billion euros; it is very important indeed. The Greek government has encouraged this investment by promoting its incorporation into the list of European projects of common interest (PCI) and we hope that this project will be part of the European projects by the end of the year. It is also important, because it involves renewable energy sources in Egypt, with two-thirds coming from the wind and one-third from photovoltaics, solar energy. It is essential that we develop these synergies between our countries to promote sustainable growth and fight climate change,” he underlined.

In another key sector of bilateral relations, trade has increased between the two countries. “Bilateral trade volume exceeds 2 billion dollars per year,” he noted. “Now there are a couple of very important projects developed in Egypt by Greek entrepreneurs. For example, I especially refer to an investment made by the Greek Group in the Suez Canal, which will essentially concern waste management. And many other investments, for example the Energean investment concerning gas exploration in Egypt.”

Referring to the meeting of PM Mitsotakis with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Gerapetritis noted that the Greek premier suggested that the two countries establish a High-Level Cooperation Council, comprised of officials not only from the Foreign Ministry or the Ministry of National Defense, but also e.g. from the Ministry of Development or Energy. “The members of this Council will work together with the aim of promoting those projects. We hope that within the first quarter of 2024 we will be able to host this Council and strengthen our bilateral relations in the sectors of trade and investments,” the Greek FM added.

In addition, Gerapetritis added that he especially appreciated the Egyptian government’s stance in helping Greece evacuate Greeks from Sudan and providing humanitarian assistance to Sudanese refugees fleeing the country because of the war.

“The situation is not good in Sahel, there are various countries which are suffering from internal conflicts, like Niger,” the Greek FM added. “I think we should be very cautious when dealing with illegal immigration because there is also the issue of human trafficking. Unfortunately, there are networks of smugglers operating and essentially taking advantage of the human suffering.”

Related to migration, Gerapetritis said the European Union should cooperate cooperate with Egypt, which is a stable country, in order to prevent illegal migration. On the other hand, he also recognized there is another aspect in migration, that of legal migration. Specifically, he referred to the Greek-Egyptian agreement to invite workers from Egypt to Greece and establish a mechanism to actually facilitate Egyptian people who come to Greece to work, particularly in the fields of agriculture and fisheries. “In the next months, we are going to further enhance this initiative to allow a bigger number of Egyptian workers to come to Greece and work in key economic sectors. It is important therefore to effectively halt and control illegal migration, while respecting fundamental human rights. On the other hand, it is essential to promote legal channels of migration and I think the agreement between Egypt and Greece is the best pattern for that,” Gerapetritis noted.

Libya, Sudan, Ukraine, food crisis

Regarding Libya, the Greek FM called it “a thorny issue”, adding, “We are aligned with the European Union and the United Nations on how to support the process leading up to general elections in the best possible way. We need to see the withdrawal of the foreign fighters and mercenaries. The country needs to get rid of all foreign military presence and especially the mercenaries currently in Libya. I think that the Libyan people should be allowed to express themselves democratically through free and fair elections, for a single voice to be articulated in Libya in the most democratic and painless way.”

In terms of Sudan, the intense civil situation there “needs to be addressed promptly,” he said: “I think we all must be very active because there is a humanitarian crisis evolving at the moment, not only with respect to immigration – people being forced to flee their countries and homes -, but also because there is an imminent threat of food insecurity which will be increased. So, I think we need to discuss it promptly and I think Egypt has an active role in this mediation. By all means, we encourage a solution that would be against any sort of violence and in favour of a democratic solution for the country.”

The Greek minister was also asked to comment on the war in Ukraine, which he called “an ongoing, unjustified war, caused by the illegal invasion of Russia to a sovereign state.” He added that “from the very beginning, Greece took a very clear stance, siding with the whole of the western world, in favor of Ukraine. We supported Ukraine in every possible manner that we considered, especially in the humanitarian and financial sector, but also in the field of military assistance. We clearly support a solution that would allow Ukraine to be integral and sovereign, that would essentially impose sanctions on those who are responsible for the current situation.”

Gerapetritis said that Greece thinks there are “some very negative collaterals,” after the war, not only the humanitarian crisis within Ukraine and the issue of the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, but also an issue of food insecurity. “As you probably know, a few days ago, Russia withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative. That means that the flow of grain will be essentially controlled and limited. That will probably entail a scarcity of basic food. Therefore, we consider that we need to take further initiatives, in order for the international organisations, the European Union and NATO, to promote peace in the region,” he underlined.

Replying to a question on Ukraine’s claim to join the EU and NATO, the Greek FM noted, “The NATO Summit decided that there is going to be an upgrade in the relationship between NATO and Ukraine. It was decided that a High-Level Council will be set-up between NATO and Ukraine that will discuss all pending issues and will essentially get Ukraine closer to NATO. There is a process, a specific process that needs to be followed for every member to join NATO and the European Union. We clearly encourage this process, we are in favour of Ukraine approaching the two organisations, the same happened, as you know, with Sweden and Finland in the last NATO Summit. We are very hopeful that in the future, Ukraine will be a member of the European Union.”

Finally, FM Gerapetritis underlined Greece’s determination to assume measures dealing with the climate crisis and the resulting catastrophic fires, on the occasion of Greece’s hosting the ‘Our Ocean Conference’ in 2024 related to the preservation of the oceans.

SOURCE; ANA-MPA

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