Interview of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos with Middle East News Agency (MENA) correspondent Samia Abbas (5 September 2013)
Greek Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on a visit to Cairo
pointed out that the purpose of his visit is to further strengthen and
deepen the traditionally good bilateral political and economic relations
between our two countries.
“As you know, Egypt and Greece are linked by age-old ties of friendship, the Greek community of Egypt, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, and our common will for cooperation and peace in the Mediterranean. Therefore, through my visit I convey a message of friendship and of political will for further cooperation. The cultivation of good bilateral relations is the shared desire of our peoples and contributes to peace, regional cooperation and, therefore, stability in the Mediterranean.”
On the current situation in Egypt, he said: “the role of the transitional government is critical and difficult. This is something we understand very well – better than most, I'd say. Greece sees it as important that time be given to Egypt so that it can regain stability and its rightful regional and international role. We want the transitional government in Cairo to be assisted so that implementation of the roadmap can be ensured.”
He insisted on the end of violence and on the avoidance of actions that undermine social peace.
“Both Greece and the EU see Egypt as a key country in the region, with a pivotal role on issues concerning the security of the Mediterranean, the Middle East peace process, and developments not only in the Arab world, but also in Africa and the Maghreb. More specifically, Greece has a sincere interest in the stability of Egypt. It is obvious that we want to maintain open channels of communication so that, together, Greece and Egypt can promote regional cooperation and, thereby, stability in the Mediterranean.”
On cooperation between Egypt and Greece, Venizelos noted that Greece’s economic presence in Egypt has grown significantly in recent years, as Greek investments reached an impressive $3 billion. “Greece is now the fifth largest European investor in Egypt, providing jobs to some 125,000 Egyptian families. And most importantly, we remain in Egypt when many others have left the country. There is excellent cooperation with the Egyptian private sector, and Greece is one of the few countries to have set up a Business Council with Egypt. And there is obviously great potential for further development of this cooperation with mutual benefits. I would also like to underscore the role of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and the Greek community of Egypt, which in fact constitute bridges between our peoples.
Of course I must stress in particular our bilateral economic and trade cooperation. We are happy that, this past June, a number of bilateral agreements were signed in Athens, promoting, among other things, our trade relations and cooperation between the ports of Alexandria and Piraeus.
We believe that the transitional government should be given time to implement the roadmap. Greece can contribute to the stability of Egypt. We are in regular contact with the Egyptian government, and we are willing to provide assistance if it is asked for.”
The Greek top diplomat characterized the situation in Syria as very distressing. “The use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and condemnable. But at the same time, it is vital for the political process to move ahead toward the convening of a Geneva II conference.”
Commenting on the stance of the European parliament on the developments in Egypt, he explained: “It is self-evident that we condemn the use of violence in general, certainly including violence against Christian churches. Religious and social peace needs to be safeguarded in Egypt and in the Middle East in general, where we are seeing a flare-up of inter-ethnic and religious tensions. The Christians of Egypt are part of the country’s wealth and human potential, and they are an intrinsic part of Egypt’s historical and cultural identity. Greece, of course, has a special interest due to the presence in Egypt of the Greek communities and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. And I want to stress at this point that we have full confidence that the country’s authorities will act, as usual, in the best possible manner in this regard.”
On reports of suspending a protocol concerning electrical liaison network with Greece, he pointed out that the electricity interconnection between Egypt and Greece remains a common objective. “We have not yet signed a relevant memorandum and we are not aware of the suspension of any bilateral agreement. As for the auspicious prospects for hydrocarbon exploration in the Southeastern Mediterranean, I believe that, far from creating any sort of alliance and excluding other countries, they constitute an additional factor for developing regional cooperation. We would welcome Egypt’s participation in regional energy initiatives with neighboring countries.”