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Foreign Minister N. Kotzias' statements following his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (Foreign Ministry, 23 April 2017)

Sunday, 23 April 2017

N. KOTZIAS: A good Sunday to all of you! It is a great pleasure to have the Foreign Minister of China and my friend Wang Yi here with us at the Foreign Ministry, and I welcome him.

China is a trusted and firm friend of Greece. The visit and our bilateral meeting are taking place on the occasion of the Ancient Civilizations Forum, which starts today with a cultural event and with the scientific Conference, and will continue tomorrow with the Ministers' consultations. And we are also pleased to have our friend the Minister here with us because this year, 2017, is the year of cultural exchanges between Greece and China.

Our culture and our relations are based on soft power; on the fact that we are two countries who shaped the cultures of our regions. For thousands of years, China was the centre of the world in Southeast Asia and throughout Asia, and influenced the world. Greece was the Acropolis of the western world, and in particular of European civilization.

This year marks 45 years of Greek-Chinese diplomatic relations and the 11th year since a strategic partnership was formed between us.

We all remember the great work of Nikos Kazantzakis on China, his travel memoires, and we know, traditionally, how much the Greeks appreciated and admired Chinese culture and the China that endured through the millennia.

Today we have strategic cooperation that is also expressed in the support Greece gives – small in size, but significant – to the 'One Belt, One Road' policy, which is a policy that expresses what the Chinese President dubbed the 'Chinese dream'.

China is today a country that is not just on the rise, but that, through plans such as this, shows that it has a vision and strategic outlook for a world of stability and peace, which is also what Greece wants.

We talked in particular about our cultural, educational and economic relations, about the importance of the sea and the sea road in the 'One Belt, One Road' plan, which is expressed through shipping, trade and tourism.

We have made joint efforts to stabilise our region and the world. As my friend the Minister also said, what characterizes Greek-Chinese relations is stability in an uncertain world.

We talked about the importance of the Port of Piraeus and the Cosco investments. The educational and research cooperation we have. We discussed the need for the European Union to develop its relations with China as well. I talked about and explained to him Greece's view of the region's problems and the actions Greece is taking as a state and country of stability.

Once again, I want to thank my friend the Foreign Minister of China, Wang Yi, for accepting my invitation. I want to thank him for the fact that we co-signed the invitations for something that will begin this evening. You all know of my weakness for Chinese history, as I taught Chinese foreign policy for 30 years, and of course, as a professor, as well, it is a great pleasure for me to have here the Foreign Ministry of a country whose foreign policy I taught. And I must say that our relations are even better now than when I was teaching about them.

Welcome and thank you, my good friend Wang Yi.

JOURNALIST: I am a journalist with the Chinese news agency Xinhua, and I have a question for the Greek Minister, Mr. Kotzias.

I know that tomorrow we have the Ancient Civilizations Forum and that from 13 to 15 May we will be having the 'One Belt, One Road' Forum, and I would like to know how Greece will contribute to the two Forums, now and in the future.

N. KOTZIAS: Both plans – what we will be doing tomorrow for the Ancient Civilizations Forum and the 'One Belt, One Road' – come from older times, "from afar," as we say in Greece. And they show that the great ancient civilizations are still alive today and that cultures link people and are also economically productive.

I would say that tomorrow's Forum is part of this road. Tomorrow we have the Foreign Minister of China and of other countries. On 14 and 15 May, in Beijing, the Greek delegation will be headed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whom I will be accompanying, of course.

I hope and believe that tomorrow's discussion will show that the ancient civilizations are alive in contemporary reality and help us with their wisdom. That these civilizations are forms of soft power and can be part of the special industry that we call the 'culture industry'.

On the other hand, the 'One Belt, One Road' plan is a road that has existed for centuries, if not millennia. I imagine that, tomorrow, our friend the Foreign Minister of Italy will remind us of the Venetian traders who used the Silk Route. Today this route is both a land route and a maritime route. On this maritime route, we have the honour of being the gateway to Europe.

I also want to say that, to me, this great Chinese plan has a visionary element. It isn't just a material plan. It isn't just investments, trains, roads. It is also, at the same time, the desire to link our worlds and our cultures even more closely together.

So my colleague Foreign Minster Wang Yi and I are two fortunate people who will be launching the Ancient Civilizations Forum tomorrow and then meeting again, in Beijing, for the other major event that is being hosted by the Chinese government.

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