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Statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, and his Afghan counterpart, Salahuddin Rabbani, following their meeting (Foreign Ministry, 18 December 2017)
N. KOTZIAS: I welcomed Sala to Greece. We are very pleased that Afghanistan, with which we are linked by so many thousands of years of relations and history and cultural heritage, is here with us.
The opening of the Afghan Embassy in Greece is a step forward in our relations and in the re-internationalization of the country, which is growing ever stronger in international diplomacy.
My colleague and I talked about the possibilities of cooperation between the two states. There are many sectors in which to develop these relations: education, including training of fire-fighters and police officers. There is culture, where we decided to develop the relations between Greek and Afghan universities. In culture and cooperation between the universities there is particular interest in archaeology and archaeological schools.
We talked about the potential for developing our economic relations, which are at a very low level – under €4.5 million; a medium-sized company’s turnover. We talked about the need to systematize our relations through reciprocal visits of Ministers, Secretaries General and Political Directors, through cooperation between our European and Middle East Directorates.
Our offer of cooperation on European Union issues, on which Greece has great expertise, was accepted. Moreover, we would like university students to come to study in Greece, and we will send experts to help our Afghan friends gain a deeper understanding of the European Union.
We talked about economic cooperation and the cooperation between our two Ministries, the directorates and personnel competent for international economic relations. And there will be meetings between the competent officials and entrepreneurs. There is a great thirst for knowledge and development of economic relations in sectors such as mining and agriculture.
I want to thank the Afghan side once again for the big step of opening an embassy in Greece; an embassy that will help us better resolve the problems that arise with economic migrants and refugees of Afghan origin, who often don’t come here from Afghanistan, but from third countries where their parents resided.
Thank you. We will talk again at the inauguration of the embassy, at 17:00 this afternoon.
S. RABBANI: Thank you so much. Thank you Mr. Minister. Of course, today was a great day in relation to the Greek-Afghan relations. So, we have upgraded our Embassy from a non-resident ambassador to the full Embassy. And as the Minister said, today it will be inaugurated. So, I can say that today was a great day in Afghan-Greek relations.
As Minister discussed, in our talks today we covered large areas, different areas of cooperation, from security to provision of scholarships, to training of our police, to providing scholarships to train our students in archeology and many other areas.
We look forward to continue to strengthen our relations with Greece, a country with whom we have historical relations. There are cities in Afghanistan built, probably thousands of years ago, hundreds of years ago, by Greek.
And of course, at the current phase we are very much grateful for what Greece has done and supported in the framework of the ISF, International Security Forces in the past, by contribution of troops. And in the recent phase, in the ….coordination, Greece’s forces are also there.
I’m glad to say that Minister proposed the training for the police, which is something that we appreciate, we welcome. And we look forward to sending our staff here for training.
We also want to explore on expanding our trade relations, on economic relations. This is something good for both countries. We can learn a lot from the Greek experience. And of course, Afghanistan. There are opportunities in Afghanistan.
And also, as Minister mentioned, we will work together to encourage Greek investments in Afghanistan. You are, I’m sure, aware that Afghanistan is mineral rich country. There are resources. And we need investments.
So, we see today as a great day for all of us. I thank the Foreign Minister, a great friend, whom I had the honor to meet today. And of course, that we’ll continue these meetings. And we will work together to strengthen and deepen our relations.
Thank you so much for your time. And of course, Mr. Minister, I look forward to seeing you in Afghanistan in next year. And hopefully, we will work together that the countries should strengthen and deepen their relations.
Thank you very much.
N. KOTZIAS: We have time for one question each.
REPORTER: A question for Mr. Kotzias. Would you like to comment on the Albanian government’s decision regarding the Greek cemeteries, for our fallen?
N. KOTZIAS: I think it is a very positive step that comes following the fact that the small church of Saint Athanasios, which was destroyed last year in Himara, is now being rebuilt with funding from the Albanian government.
I believe that the law passed by the Albanian Ministerial Council on the 13th of the month, and which was made public yesterday, Sunday – a law that regulates the issues of the Cemeteries of Greek soldiers and officers who fell on Albanian soil in 1940-1941 – is a huge step towards putting our soldiers souls to rest and constitutes another step of trust between the two sides.
This development, like other, smaller steps – I mentioned one example of the steps that have been taken – shows that diplomacy can achieve much more than empty cries of protest. Diplomacy is the way for us to achieve the positive development of our relations with our neighbours. Our government and I, personally, have chosen this path and we are shouldering the weight of the path of peaceful understanding, of diplomacy and the development of the national agenda with the states in our environs.
I thank everyone who contributed towards this decision in the past.
REPORTER: For the Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs, a question concerning the refugee issue. In our country, most of the discussions regarding the Afghans concern the refugees heading to Europe via Greece. We know that you still have serious problems with terrorism and the civil conflict. What is your proposal, or whether you have a proposal for the European Union regarding how the refugee flows toward Europe might be reduced?
S. RABBANI: As you know, Afghanistan has signed an agreement with European Union, joint way forward and as we have said. And that we are committed to honoring of the international obligations that we have on this part.
So, I can that there of course issues in the region and as far as refugees are concerned. But Afghanistan will honor its obligations.
Thank you very much.
N. KOTZIAS: Thank you very much.