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FM D. Droutsas’ statements following his meeting with FM of Egypt N. El-Araby

Monday, 11 April 2011

FM D. Droutsas’ statements following his meeting with FM of Egypt N. El-Araby N. EL-ARABY: At the outset, allow me to welcome the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, in Egypt. He has met with the Egyptian Prime Minister this morning, Dr. Essam Sharaf and they have discussed many issues, bilateral issues, regional issues, and international issues. […] I would like to express my deep appreciation and thanks to Greece for helping the Egyptians who were trapped in Libya, actually there were Greek ships that were able to take those Egyptians back to their home land.

Egypt is undergoing some difficult times and […] difficult times we seek assistance and aid from different countries and different international bodies, for example the EU, and Greece has also shown its readiness to help in this issue.

D. DROUTSAS: [ … ] interesting and of course important.

We discussed and exchanged views on a number of international and regional issues, but most importantly we had the opportunity to lay the foundation for the next phase in our close cooperation, between Greece and Egypt, what we want to see as a true strategic partnership.

Egypt is one of Greece’s most important partners in the region and the Greek people, I think this is well known, foster deep feelings of friendship for the Egyptian people. This has always been the case and rest assured it will continue to be so. I think the active and historic Greek community in Egypt, the Alexandria Patriarchate and the dozens of Greek enterprises that have invested in the Egyptian market and remain here, all speak for themselves.

So let me express our support and commitment to the reform process which is taking place in Egypt. No one is of course saying that it is going to be easy, no one is saying that political reforms on this scale can be implemented on automatic pilot, if you want, and that is why the Government’s task to steer Egypt through this time of change and transition is so important.

I want to stress that we, Greeks, strongly believe in the Egyptian people. They have exhibited the political maturity and responsibility to walk the path of reform. I would also like to stress that no one, but the Egyptian people, can decide where this path will lead; the destination cannot be dictated or imposed by anyone else and, as an immediate neighbour and close friend, Greece expresses its support and stands ready to help in anyway needed.

We must bear in mind that what the Egyptians are achieving today will have very far-reaching implications. That is why developments here are being watched so closely by the EU and by the leaderships in other countries in the region. The building of strong democratic institutions and an open civil society will not only reaffirm the leading role Egypt has always played in the stability of the region, but will also give Egypt itself the resources to set out afresh on a dynamic course of development and progress.

In the midst of the Libyan crisis, the region needs to see that violence and bloodshed are not the only way: There is also the transition process under way here in Egypt; Let me also mention the bold reforms announced by the King in Morocco. These are shining examples, I think, on the path of change.

I would like to, once again, warmly thank Minister El-Araby for our important discussion and express my respect and appreciation for the strong leadership demonstrated by Egypt in this demanding time of historic change and I want all Egyptians to know that Greece will always be by your side.

Thank you very much.

JOURNALIST: [not heard] question concerning the situation in Libya.

N. EL-ARABY: […] so they are going to organize the humanitarian aspects, not to set it, because they try to find a way out. Some countries are trying to play a role and they should. The African Union sent a delegation, the delegation met with General Gaddafi and I do not know what they have worked out with him. But the main thing, from our point of view, as Egypt, is that fighting should stop, no more bloodshed and to try to find a political solution. And that’s our position. And also that we would like to maintain the security and the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Libya, that’s very important for us. Libya is a neighboring country and we want to ensure this will take place.

D. DROUTSAS: Greece is also part of the immediate neighborhood and I think it is most natural and obvious that Greece is following very closely the developments and is also offering its own good services. Greece has longstanding traditional ties of mutual respect and understanding with all the Arab world, and this is why we think that Greece can also play a necessary and important role in the developments. We want to see peace; we want to see stability as soon as possible in the region and for the region. This is why Greece has said right from the beginning that we need to continue the efforts for finding a political solution. A political solution for the crisis in Libya is key, it is important, it is necessary and in this spirit we also received last week in Athens a special envoy by the regime in Libya in order to see whether such a political process could be started.

We see with satisfaction that this week we will have several meetings. Let me start by tomorrow, in Luxemburg, the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, on Wednesday in Doha the meeting of the Contact Group on Libya, on Thursday in Berlin the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, we also have this very important meeting that will take place here in Cairo, of the regional organizations which is also very important, so we very much hope that within this week, within these days and during these meetings this political process for the solution of the Libyan crisis can have results.

And it is clear that within these efforts of finding a political solution, that the full respect and implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions is imperative to see an immediate and credible cease-fire in Libya, an end of violence against the Libyan people, and it is also very clear that the future of Libya and also the future leadership of Libya can only emerge out of the free will of the Libyan people, as it is also clear that we have to guarantee the integrity also, the territorial integrity of Libya.

JOURNALIST: The same question to both ministers, how can Greece practically help political reform?

D. DROUTSAS: First of all, let me point out and stress that I think the word “help” is not the correct word in my view. I think that supporting Egypt in this process of transformation is also in the very interest of the whole region, but also of the European Union, and I would rather talk and use the word of, it is an investment also for the European Union into the region, regarding security, stability for the region, this means stability, security also for the whole of the European Union. It is about economic growth and development for the region, this means also economic growth and development for the whole of the European Union. In this framework, I think that Greece as an EU member state and the closest, I would say, EU member state to Egypt, can really work and function as the genuine and sincere bridge between Egypt and the European Union and as I had the opportunity to say to the Foreign Minister and also to the Prime Minister today, to assure him that Greece will stand by the side of Egypt and will do its utmost to promote also the interests of Egypt within the European Union.

A last word. We have spoken also in the past, we have mentioned this, we are talking about the necessity of something that we could call a “European Marshall Plan” for the whole region. This is, I think, a real challenge also for the European Union and, once again, the correct word is not aid and support, the correct word for us is a true investment also for the European Union in the region and of course also especially to Egypt.

JOURNALIST: [not heard] question on Egypt’s role in Turkish - Greek relations and on the two simultaneous meetings

N. EL-ARABY: I was saying it was not planned to happen this way, but… I have to say that those meetings were not planned to take place as such. In fact, both Greece and Turkey are both close neighbors to Egypt and we have excellent relationships and, as I said yesterday, Egypt was part of the Ottoman rule in the past and also the […] and Egypt also was part of the Greek Empire. As you have seen there are the traces and monuments and ruins of the Greek civilization are still evident in Egypt.

As for the Turkish and Greek relationships, they have direct relationships and Egypt was not asked to actually do any mediation about it, however we are ready if they ask us to do so, yet they have direct relationships with one another.

D. DROUTSAS: Let me maybe add to this that, although Egypt is a very good friend of both countries, Greece and Turkey have their own very intensive contacts. We might have our differences, yes, this is a fact, certain behavior by Turkey is felt by Greece also sometimes as provocative, and it is not always an easy neighborhood, but we have established very close and intensive contacts with our Turkish friends. Let me stress that, even if you have differences with your neighbours, this does not mean that you cannot cooperate and that you cannot cooperate very closely on issues of common interest, but also on issues that deal with the common region you find yourself in. This is why for Greece it is most natural to cooperate with Turkey also on the developments in the region, also on the issue of the developments in Libya, here we are in close cooperation, once again we are both countries of the immediate neighborhood, we have both the interest of seeing peace, stability, economic growth in the neighborhood and in this spirit, cooperation between Greece and Turkey is very intensive.

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