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Press Conference of the 1st Ministerial Meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum

Thursday, 27 April 2017

MFA SPOKESMAN: We welcome you to the press conference of the 1st Ministerial Meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum. The Foreign Minister of the Hellenic Republic, Nikos Kotzias, has the floor.

N. KOTZIAS: Good afternoon.

I would like to thank all of our guests, who came to Athens, the city of Democracy and Culture, so that we could discuss issues concerning ancient civilization and how we can use its wisdom to produce creative plans for our peoples and the world. To discuss, among other things, how we can use culture for peace, and cultural diplomacy for mutual understanding.

We agreed to publish the speeches we made today in a book in all of the languages. We also discussed the institutionalization of this meeting and its being held on an annual basis. Already, three member states of the Forum have expressed their willingness to host the next meetings.

We also agreed that it will be a Forum open to new members; a Forum that can be attended by observers, such as states that do not have ancient cultures. We also agreed that, as of the next meeting, we will also invite international organizations, such as the UN and UNESCO, and, depending on the given agenda for the meeting, we will also invite other specialized international organizations.

We will create a network of competent parties in each country, and we agreed that, at the next meeting, together with the political conference, we will also hold an academic conference, including a joint session between the ministers and academics, which will provide fertile ground for the exchange of views and ideas.

We agreed that ideal culture is good culture, peaceful culture, democratic culture. It is what links the past and the future, which imparts strength even to the weak, substantially upgrades relations between states and gives us, the stewards of ancient civilizations, a special responsibility, highlighting that we prefer the civilized to the barbaric.

We prefer dialogue to fanaticism, civilizing to acts of terror. We prefer to draw the wisdom of our peoples from the past and use it to shape the future.

Today, ten states, on various levels of representation, met in a historic conference, the Ancient Civilizations Forum, which is a joint initiative we took with my Chinese friend, Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Together with other states, we had the pleasure of meeting here in Athens.

For us, culture is a soft power and economic factor, and at the same time it is a civilizing force that cultivates the human being, enabling us to express the inexpressible in a way that banishes fears and insecurity.

We concluded that we can and must continue our cooperation on disseminating the values of a peaceful culture, and that we will be able to shape a number of joint plans and projects that we will agree on over the next two months.

Culture links many manifestations of human activity through education, tourism, deterring wars, through new technology and the way we use it.

As the Greek state, we want to promote a positive agenda in our external relations. As we did yesterday and today, pointing up the richness of our culture and its usefulness in international relations. In this context, less that a month from now, we will have the next Rhodes meeting on stability and security, which is aimed at creating positive synergies in the Eastern Mediterranean, between European and Arab states. All in all, we have put together 12 new international initiatives that are working in this direction.

I want to say that I am both moved and satisfied, because a goal I have been putting forth in my books for decades is being realised. A goal we set together with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras: to bring together this forum.

Thanks to everyone's help, and particularly that of the Chinese side, two parallel great civilizations - and with the consent, from the outset, of Egypt and Italy - with the heartfelt consensus of our friends from Latin America, and with the splendour of Arab culture and the civilizations that developed in the Arab world. Everyone, without exception, gladly accepted our proposal a year and a half or two years ago; a proposal that today is crystallizing and will evolve through a number of practical measures.

I thank you for your patience. I thank our colleagues who will now take the floor to tell us how they feel and how they see this initiative.

I thank everyone.

MFA SPOKESMAN: The Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China, Mr. Wang Yi, please take the floor.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi: China supports Greece in this very important initiative for the creation of an Ancient Civilizations Forum.

Moreover, as the Greek Foreign Minister said, China has agreed to be and has acted as a kind of co-organizer of this forum, as we believe it is a useful initiative within an international environment of destabilising factors.

The key words of these meetings are:

First, peace. The ten countries participating in this forum are countries with ancient civilizations, and over the past millennia we have seen the rise and fall of dynasties and empires, we have seen wars, poverty, turmoil in many parts of the world.

Consequently, we, as ancient civilizations, are very well aware of the importance of peace, and we value peace very highly. From our ancient civilizations we have learned that we have a common responsibility to defend peace. Any international conflicts must be resolved by peaceful means, and this world must no longer have wars or conflicts.

The second key word is tolerance for others. All of our civilizations have special characteristics. The variety and diversity of cultures has contributed to their progress. Two thousand years ago, the Chinese said that peace requires a responsible way of dealing with relations. There is no domination among cultures. There is no culture that is higher than others. We are all at the same level, on equal terms. Tolerance and learning from one another is the way to seek progress.

The third key word is cooperation. All ten civilizations have a very proud history. We all need to open up more. We are facing the challenge of achieving progress and improving the quality of life of our peoples. This is why we need to cooperate, so that we can have profitable results for everyone, and we must work together for the collective development and common prosperity of all. And I believe that, in this way, our ten ancient civilizations can contribute to everyone's future.

The last thing I want to say is in reference to the Foreign Minister of Greece, Mr. Kotzias, who worked very hard to create this forum. He dedicated so much to the organization and development of this forum, creating a platform for the interaction of these ancient civilizations. We are all very moved by his dedication, because it is thanks to his efforts that we now see the creation of this forum, and we are very pleased to see the support of the Prime Minister and other organizations. And this active support made feasible this very good start for the Ancient Civilizations Forum.

I also welcome the contribution of friends who are here or are absent, and on behalf of the Chinese side I express our gratitude to all of you. I truly believe that this forum will steadily grow in strength and be fully recognized by the international community. Thank you very much.

MFA SPOKESMAN: Will the Foreign Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Mr. Sameh Shoukry, please take the floor.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry: Thank you very much. First of all, I would like to express my warm thanks and our gratitude to the Foreign Ministers of the Hellenic Republic and the People's Republic of China.

It was an honour for us to be here and talk and exchange views at this forum, which in reality revives the history of civilization, revives the values and human principles that must be a source of inspiration and guide to the future.

Pharaonic Egypt, Hellenistic, Roman, Islamic Egypt, the Egypt of today are in reality an extension of the past towards the future, which is based on peaceful coexistence and confronting destructive thoughts, confronting armed conflicts. I believe that, based on peaceful coexistence, we can establish communication among peoples, so that there can be progress.

This is why we look forward to an effective contribution, and we hope that these efforts bear fruit that will contribute to the benefit not just of this group, but of all humanity.

I express my warm thanks,

MFA SPOKESMAN: The Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif, has the floor.

Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif: Good afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, it is great pleasure and honour for me to be here with representatives of the ten ancient civilizations addressing the international media.

I wanted to thank the Government and people of Greece for the gracious hospitality and I want to thank my dear friends, the Foreign Ministers of Greece and China for initiating this welcome initiative at this important juncture, when the international community needs more than ever the contribution of wisdom that comes from older civilizations on the face of the earth.

I believe what we need to do together is to promote the ideas that have kept these civilizations alive.

It has not been the wars – if we remember these civilizations we don’t remember them by their military victories, but we remember them by their contribution to knowledge, the contribution to understanding, the contribution to human empathy that these civilizations stood for.

So at this time when the world is suffering from extremism of all kinds, extremism that is reflected in the approaches of many state and non-state actors at the global level, we need the lessons that we can draw from old civilizations, civilizations that have seen the rise and demise of many empires, know that time is a victory and we are but short moments in the history of mankind.

We can contribute by promoting dialogue, understanding, human empathy and moderation within the international community. And I thank the government of Greece for this initiative to allow us to make this contribution at this time, and I believe this idea and this forum has a lot to offer to the international community, and we hope that in the future we can continue to work together in order to promote understanding, dialogue, and moderation.

Thank you very much.

MFA SPOKESMAN: Will the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Iraq, Dr. Ibrahim Al Jaafari, please take the floor.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al Jaafari: In the name of the God of mercy, I would like to welcome the convening of the 1st Conference of Ancient Civilizations. This Conference is seen as being of particular importance and, of course, the first step is always key, though the road be very long.

Thus, we now have the potential to give life to this forum and start from zero. We are at the first meeting, and I hope that there will be many more.

We hope this meeting will be annual, and we are prepared to host the next meeting in the land of Mesopotamia, in the land of Iraq, with a civilization that is 7,000 years old. Of course we are pleased to be here with you, with our sister country Egypt, where civilization began.

We hope there will be ongoing communication that reflects the principles of civilization, as the mindset of discrimination, of exclusion, has cost the world dearly. And let us not forget that there is the culture of wars. The First and Second Wars, for example. A mindset based on conflict and racism, which transformed into intolerance. And then intolerance transformed into war, leaving 5.5 million victims in the world.

So we must cultivate a culture of love, of trust, of understanding. We must promote the culture of harmony and convergence.

Many intellectuals in the modern era thought we would have a clash of civilizations, but, on the contrary, we are promoting the culture of convergence of civilizations. We are promoting harmony, reaffirming that we encourage cultural diversity, which we convert into emotional wealth, so that we can confront the world's many ills.

This meeting also falls within the framework of joint cooperation centred on the dialogue of cultures. Dialogue is one of the key points of this effort, and it is of timeless value.

The enemies of civilizations, like the DAESH terrorist organization in the Islamic world, target the human being, women, children, anything that symbolizes humanity, coexistence, love. They have crossed every line and have targeted the very monuments of civilization, destroying them.

We support this dialogue of cultures through our firm stance. Today, this forum is a step in the right direction, but we hope that this effort will continue and become established. This means that the culture of love will now become a reality that will contribute to confronting the intolerance promoted by DAESH, which aims at destruction, while we propose the dialogue of cultures.

I want to thank the Foreign Minister of Greece. I want to thank the Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China. It is no coincidence that they belong to two of the most ancient civilizations, and that democracy was born here in Athens.

Unfortunately, however, the pioneer of democracy, Socrates, was put to death by a democratic decision, and this distorted the notion of democracy, with the result that he was forced to drink hemlock.

Thank you very much, and may the peace of God be with you.

Peruvian Foreign Minister Salvador del Solar: Good afternoon. I convey the gratitude of the government of Peru to the Greek government for hosting this event, as well as our gratitude to the government of China for supporting it.

I think we are moving in the right direction, even though we are now moving towards an uncertain future. I think it is very, very important for us to be able to come together at a forum on ancient civilizations. We believe in dialogue and tolerance as means for dealing with ignorance.

We support culture and we are convinced that this forum of ancient civilizations will create an excellent future for our past.

Thank you very much.

MFA SPOKESMAN: On behalf of Bolivia, Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Guadalupe Palomeque.

Bolivian Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Guadalupe Palomeque: Thank you very much. Good afternoon to everyone. It was a great honour for Bolivia to be able to participate in this first Ancient Civilization Forum. I would like to thank, in particular, the government of the Hellenic Republic, as well as the government of China, the co-organizer of this important event.

I would also like to say that my country represents the Tiwanaku civilization, which developed around Lake Titicaca and La Paz, in Bolivia. In Bolivia, we are in favour of peace and dialogue, and, through people's diplomacy, we promote multiculturalism and, above all, harmonious coexistence. This is our philosophy.

Bolivia will host the next meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum, in 2018, and we are certain that we will be able to provide the necessary continuity for this excellent initiative of the Greek government.

Thank you very much.