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Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ statement following the trilateral meeting with his Cypriot and Israeli counterparts, Nikos Christodoulides and Gabi Ashkenazi (Athens, 27 October 2020)

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ statement following the trilateral meeting with his Cypriot and Israeli counterparts, Nikos Christodoulides and Gabi Ashkenazi (Athens, 27 October 2020)Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to welcome today my two esteemed colleagues and good friends, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Israel, Gabi Ashkenazi, and of the Republic of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulides.

Our countries enjoy close ties of friendship and share common values. We also face common challenges. We are three modern democracies with an exceptionally long history. While we are geographically located in a turbulent region, prospects of cooperation in many sectors are unfolding.

We are bound by close ties of friendship and common values. We also face common challenges.

Our guiding principle is respect for international law and the promotion of good neighbourly relations. In this framework, I welcome the normalisation of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and, most recently, Sudan. Greece, in turn, with the support of all Greeks, has contributed towards ensuring stability in the region: through agreements concluded with Italy and Egypt, and through our agreement with Albania to refer our differences regarding the delimitation of maritime zones to The Hague.

We have therefore shown the global community how modern countries resolve their differences: where possible, through agreements, and where not, through recourse to international judicial bodies, always within the framework of international law. We are immensely proud of this fact. We are immensely proud because, within a few short months, we resolved differences that had remained unresolved for half a century, setting a sterling example, a model for how to safeguard peace and stability in our region.

In this context, I would also like to underline my satisfaction, my great satisfaction, the great satisfaction of the Greek government regarding yesterday's statements by the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who stressed what is self-evident: that Greece has every right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, on the basis of International Law. He thus resoundingly shattered a long-standing myth; that is, that Russia supposedly opposes our country's inalienable right to extend its territorial waters both in the Aegean Sea and in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Dear colleagues,

the close ties between us, at both the bilateral and the multilateral levels, are safeguards for our region, a region fraught with crises and dangerous revisionism. We share common values and pursuits; we face common challenges and we create common understandings. We are prepared to provide joint answers to these challenges. And we are naturally faced with new opportunities unfolding.

Today, the trilateral partnership of Greece, Cyprus and Israel is a choice of broader horizons extending across numerous issues and serving as an example for a number of countries. The results of our partnership are measurable. This is a robust partnership that reaches far beyond the narrow limits of a purely energy-oriented programme. Our focus on energy is certainly a priority, but we aim at further improving both our economic and our wider political relations.

Today, Gabi, Nikos and I picked up the thread again, exchanging views on how to deepen and expand this beneficial relationship that, in the words of Nikos, the most experienced among us, is taking place here in Athens today for the first time at the ministerial level.

From Defence and Security to Technology, Research, Water Resources Management, Desalination, Renewable Energy Sources, Environmental Protection and Health — particularly during these difficult times of the COVID pandemic — Education and the management of our common Cultural Heritage. And, of course, cooperation among our communities abroad. The cooperation among the new generation of our peoples, our country's nationals. Innovative Entrepreneurship is a new, highly promising field for future cooperation. Israel serves as a stellar example that has much to teach us in this area.

The establishment of a permanent secretariat in Nicosia will greatly improve the effectiveness of our partnership by coordinating our actions.

Let me underscore once again that the strategic relationship between Greece, Cyprus and Israel is highly promising, but is not directed against anyone. On the contrary, it is an open invitation to all, bar no one.

However, there is one fundamental condition. This condition is, of course, what is common sense, what is self-evident: respect for international law, respect for good neighbourly relations. This is a condition founded on international legality. That is why it is firmly supported both by the European Union and by the United States of America. Greece, Cyprus and Israel are working methodically with the United States to promote security and prosperity in our region in the context of the 3+1 mechanism — and we are certainly open to the prospect of enlarging the mechanism to include other countries in the region. We are thus charting a new geography of understanding that transcends the old stereotypes, that reshapes the map of our region.

In closing, please allow me a few words on recent developments in our region. Sadly, this meeting is taking place in light of new illegal actions by our neighbour, Turkey.

Within a few short days, Turkey is once again taking actions aimed at undermining any prospect of constructive dialogue, unlawfully reserving areas within the Greek continental shelf for illegal seismic surveys, or other provocative actions, such as the Turkish Vice-President's illegal visit to occupied Varosha, a flagrant breach of the relevant Resolutions of the UN Security Council.

We have unequivocally condemned these actions. These developments were certainly discussed during my talks with my counterparts yesterday and today. The common denominator of these talks was that ways to halt the aggressiveness and destabilising role played by Turkey must be found — but always within the framework of international legality.

At the same time, we jointly stressed that the antidote to Turkey's revisionist aspirations and to its efforts to impose its positions through force is the cultivation of multilateral cooperation for the benefit of all the countries and peoples of the region. At this point, I would once again like to make myself perfectly clear. Our region will not be returning to the 19th century. We will not let that come to pass. Our region will move forward in the 21st century on the basis of the common understandings we have continuously and consistently achieved.

In closing, I would like to once again extend my warm thanks to my friends, Gabi Ashkenazi and Nikos Christodoulides, for today's exceptionally constructive meeting. I would like to say that I look forwarded to continuing our regular talks in the future, whether in this trilateral configuration or in an expanded configuration.

Thank you very much.

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