Greece will “be present in all international initiatives that guarantee peace and international legality in the Middle East,” Foreign Affairs Minister George Gerapetritis told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in Parliament on Wednesday.
Briefing the Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs, Gerapetritis said that “Greece will participate for symbolic and substantial reasons in the fleet of the Americans and the British in the operation at the Red Sea with a frigate serving a purely supportive and defensive role, and will contribute and support all European and Arab country initiatives that will guarantee safe sea passage.”
The situation at the Red Sea is “extremely fragile”, with Houthi attacks threatening international shipping. This has created major issues in shipping, he added, affecting trade transport and ship insurance cost, and in turn affecting merchandise and raising fiscal issues for states. “There is already a significant economic recession in Egypt due also to the Suez Canal, but problems are cropping up as well in the economies of Jordan and Lebanon,” the minister added.
Responding to protests about Greece’s involvement with a frigate, Gerapetritis said, “Is there a part of parliament that does not believe it is Greece’s duty to support Greek merchant ships and Greek seamen?” Greece, he said, will be present to protect the Greek merchant marine and its crew members.
Speaking of initiatives about the Middle East situation, Gerapetritis said the peace initiative by the Arab states is “the most significant and serious”, and it is calling for release of hostages, a ceasefire, and an international conference. However, he noted, “there does not seem to be an immediate de-escalation” and “the situation at this point is not good,” while the peace efforts seem to stumble on the major issue of refugees and the hostages.
Greece is at the forefront of these efforts as a reliable partner, and its goal is peace in the Middle East. “The initiatives assumed by the Greek government have not been assumed by any other European state. Greece is the only country with direct contact with all involved parties, both related to warfare and to working on a peace plan, and that at the highest level,” he underlined, adding, “Our priority is universal peace in the region, that’s it.” He added that Greece is not taking parts between Israel and Palestine, but “is with the right, and we will focus on this, that is why they respect our word.”
Gerapetritis also spoke of the close ties Greece has with Egypt, “the only pillar of stability in the region’s geographic balance,” and said the relations between the two countries “are of very great geostrategic significance,” not the least of as they form a massive energy hub.