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Statements of Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexis Tsipras, following the proceedings of the 5th Greece-Cyprus-Israel Trilateral Summit Meeting (Beersheba, 20 December 2018)
"I would also like to thank warmly the Israeli Prime Minister for his hospitality and the opportunity we had today to visit the city of Beersheba. As the Israeli Prime Minister explained to us, it is a city with an important history. Indeed, its history goes back to World War I and to a battle which took place here.
Yet, I was impressed because I saw a city which despite its location in the middle of the desert, has developed in recent years into a centre for knowledge, education, new technologies and particularly into a centre for technology and cyber security. That is, a centre in the Israeli government's attempt to broaden the concept of security and include it in the debate about the future.
Because nowadays, the threats we face are different from the old ones we knew. I was impressed as much by the level of technology, as by the depth of the research being carried out here. This has been an important opportunity for us, I believe, to derive rich experience about what direction we should give to our own intelligence services, but also to our national defence in the face of threats, which I repeat, in certain cases at least, do not come in the same conventional form.
I would therefore like to begin my speech by saying that the mere fact that we meet for the fifth time on a tripartite level signals that we have established an institution based on substantive partnership of a strategic nature, I would say. Many wonder, therefore, what the purpose of this partnership is. The answer is clear: The purpose of this partnership is to consolidate our territory as a region of peace, prosperity, cooperation and co-development, and to confront challenges, dangers, and threats jointly. The goal is not to turn against third countries, but instead to reaffirm and proclaim our wish to transform this conflict-riven and long-suffering region of the Eastern Mediterranean into a region of cooperation and co-development.
To that effect, we emphasized, once again, dialogue on regional questions. Yet we also foregrounded and took the necessary steps towards concrete partnerships in the fields of energy, research, and innovation which, I repeat, constitute the future, in cyber-security and digital policy, but also in agricultural cooperation.
Starting from the field of energy, for some time now, we have been discussing a project which, I am convinced, will breathe into the region a new stability. I am referring to the pipeline transporting natural gas, the EastMed. The EastMed is not merely an energy project. It is a project of particular geopolitical value and importance.
Our goal is to ensure the flow or the transport of energy resources from the South East Mediterranean to Europe. And to that effect, our objective is, within this partnership, to also include other countries in the future. And other countries of the region with energy resources. We do not want to exclude anyone. That said, we declare our determination to move on to a partnership which - I repeat - has as much economic and commercial value as geopolitical value. Because those among us who will work together to build this energy route, will also be paving the way for stability and peace in our region.
Our friend Benjamin said that our next meeting will take place in Knossos, near Knossos, in Crete. Knossos, for those who do not know it, is a very important city of the ancient Minoan civilization. It is an important cultural landmark and heritage, a foundational moment for the world as it were, because it is in our Mediterranean region that civilization was born and thrived, before it spread to other parts of the world.
It will indeed be very interesting to meet in Crete, next time, in the beginning of 2019, not only because Nikos and Benjamin will get a chance to visit Knossos, but in order to designate this island, which lies in the heart of the Mediterranean, as an island of cooperation and co-development, since the EastMed pipeline will be traversing it on its route from the South East Mediterranean to Europe. I want to underscore that this pipeline will become a bridge for our region. We want energy to become a bridge between peoples rather than an object of conflict.
Of course, since we were here at Beersheba, we could only talk about technology and innovation. We have, therefore, signed a memorandum of cooperation on innovation, research and transfer of know-how from Israel. Israel has succeeded in becoming a pioneer in these fields and we, of course, wish - and I want to thank personally Prime Minister Netanyahu for giving us this opportunity - this know-how to be disseminated to both Greece and Cyprus.
We also had extensive discussions during which we agreed to intensify the cooperation of our countries in digital policy in order to fortify our arsenal against cyber threats. With regard to communications and information technology, we have agreed to set up a steering committee, with the participation of competent ministers, to address the common challenges.
And I must not forget to mention Thessaloniki, since our previous meeting in Greece took place there. For Thessaloniki is a city whose past was characterised by a harmonious commingling between our peoples since a large part of its population was of Jewish origin. And from what I am told, the Israeli Minister of Communication also comes from Thessaloniki. The history of this city is linked to a significant degree with the fate of its Jewish community, and it is the European city with the largest number, in proportion to its population, of victims of the Second World War. We want, therefore, to strengthen this great heritage of ours that binds us by investing in the future. We want to build a bridge between the past and the future. That is why we intend, with the help of Israel, to set up a technological park of innovation in Thessaloniki, which will open up new opportunities for synergies between Israeli startups and Greek startups, as well as, of course, with companies located in the other Balkan countries, because our own vision is for Thessaloniki to become the economic, technological and commercial capital of the Balkans.
We also signed an agreement with Israel on the exploration and exploitation of space for peaceful purposes, which, of course, presents strategic prospects for cooperation.
And I would like to end my speech by also mentioning the other crucial questions of geopolitical and geostrategic importance regarding developments in our region, which were discussed at length, both yesterday evening at the dinner that the Israeli Prime Minister gave us and today. We talked about developments in Syria. I do not hide the fact that we are concerned by developments in Syria, which are related to both the recent US decision and the future role of third countries in the region, like Turkey and Iran. We have agreed to strengthen our cooperation in the field of security and exchange of intelligence information, not only regarding these developments but also in general.
The Israeli Prime Minister informed us of the tunnels found in northern Israel. And, of course, in this context, we have unequivocally condemned every form of terrorism, underlined the need for international cooperation to combat it, and welcomed the convening, in Athens, on 29 November 2018, of a tripartite group whose aim is to study means to prevent the funding of terrorism.
As far as the Middle East issue is concerned, for my part, I reiterated Greece’s commitment to the achievement of a viable two-state solution, as did President Anastasiades a little earlier. The achievement, therefore, of a viable two-state solution that will guarantee peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. And of course, I have stressed Greece's support for the resumption of a peace process, as soon as possible, on the basis of substantive negotiations.
We also talked about the Cyprus problem. For the need of a fair and lasting solution in the interests of the Cypriot people as a whole, which for us entails, of course, the elimination of guarantees and the withdrawal of occupation troops from Cyprus. I underlined the need to respect International Law in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean, which, of course, also means respect for Cyprus's right to exercise its sovereign rights within its Exclusive Economic Zone.
We also discussed the promotion of the EU-Israel partnership and its important prospects, naturally on the basis of international law. In general terms, therefore, I would like to draw the conclusion that we are building steadily a relationship of meaningful cooperation, based on mutual understanding and which, I repeat, is premised on our common purpose. Our partnership is not an alliance against third parties, just three countries joined together in order to reaffirm their desire for peace, cooperation, prosperity, and co-development in our region. This, evidently, manifests itself through concrete steps, steps which will bring about the development of trade, joint cultural initiatives, the strengthening of the research and innovation sectors, as well as the strengthening of cooperation in the energy sector which is of great strategic importance.
With these thoughts, I would like to thank Benjamin Netanyahu for his hospitality. I would also like to say to my dear friend President Nikos Anastasiades that it is not so positive to be a prime minister and to have responsibility for another ministerial portfolio at the same time. Do not think that this is a situation that makes us feel particularly comfortable. For my part, at least, I do not feel this way. I imagine that Benjamin is also doing it for reasons of necessity. On the other hand, one cannot deny its strange peculiarity because when we sat all three around the table, we were simultaneously two Prime Ministers, one President and three Ministers, even though we were only three individuals.
With these thoughts, I want to thank you warmly, and announce that our next meeting will be in Crete, in February 2019. Possibly also in the presence of an American official, since the USA show particular interest in our regional cooperation and especially in our energy cooperation. This means that we are proceeding with steady steps and succeeding slowly but surely in our goal to create positive news and a positive precedent for the benefit of our peoples, for the benefit of our countries, and - I would add - for the benefit of the peoples of the wider region. Since stability, security and peace are for the benefit of all peoples.
Thank you very much."