PM Mitsotakis highlights concerns over Middle East crisis in meeting with President Sakellaropoulou

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stressed his grave concern over the latest developments in the Middle East during a meeting with President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou on Thursday.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stressed his grave concern over the latest developments in the Middle East during a meeting with President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou on Thursday.

"Now that the elections are over, our attention turns once more to current affairs, at home and abroad. I do not need to tell you how concerned we are over the developments in the Middle East and, unfortunately, over this escalation in the conflict whose primary victims are civilians on both sides after the horrific, lethal attack within Israel by Hamas. Unfortunately, we also have significant loss of human lives in the Gaza Strip," Mitsotakis said.

The prime minister noted that in all his international contacts he has stressed Israel's right to self defence, on the one hand, and the need for this to be done while fully respecting the rules of international law and with absolute respect for the protection of human life in the Gaza Strip.
"It is extremely important to restore humanitarian aid to Gaza from Egypt. The European countries are working in this direction and support this policy," he said, while adding that he will have the opportunity to relay Greece's views on this when he attends a multilateral conference in Cairo on Saturday.

Mitsotakis said that Greece has striven and earned its role as a pillar of stability in the region and is an interlocutor of all sides, as well as the first country to desire a de-escalation of the tension.

Turning to domestic issues, Mitsotakis said that the government continues to insist on its reform agenda and that the cabinet meeting on Wednesday took important steps, resolving outstanding issues from the past and dealing with new challenges, with emphasis on improving the functioning of the state.

The premier also referred to the creation of a new advisory committee on Artificial Intelligence chaired by Prof. Constantine Daskalakis, noting that AI opens up new horizons, as well as a series of potential threats that must be addressed.

President Sakellaropoulou, on her part, congratulated those elected to office in local government or who participated in the elections, urging them to now work with central government to ensure "the best possible planning for the future."

Regarding international affairs, she said that the new eruption of violence in the Middle East, following the great crisis in Ukraine, was "exceptionally worrying" and that the situation showed no prospects for a positive outcome. She stressed that the humanitarian angle was paramount and human life was above all, expressing hope that there will soon be peace.
Finally, she welcomed the government's initiative for an advisory committee on AI.


The international community needs to ensure that there is no aggression against civilian targets during the current crisis in the Middle East, Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis said in an interview with Al Arabiya released earlier this week.
Gerapetritis granted the interview, which was reproduced by the Greek foreign ministry on Wednesday, while attending the recent EU-Gulf Cooperation Council ministerial meeting in Oman.
"The truth is that we are very concerned with the possible spill-over effects and the humanitarian consequences of this situation. I had the opportunity to propose to the summit an action plan of five points in order to address the situation immediately," Gerapetritis said in the interview.

The 5 points, according to the minister, were as follows:

"First, we should unanimously agree that any form of violence, terrorism, or inhumane treatment is totally unacceptable.

Second, all abductees and hostages should be set free.

Third, we should ensure that there is no aggression against civilian targets.

Fourth, we must ensure that humanitarian corridors are established in order to relieve human suffering and that humanitarian aid is delivered to people in danger.

And fifth, I think we should organise and convene an extraordinary Summit with the participation of the involved parties and also with the representatives from the EU, the Arab League, and the United Nations in order to address the root causes of this problem."

Gerapetritis added that it was "a difficult situation and we are very concerned. I think there must be a joint effort both from Europe and from the Gulf countries in order to set up a sustainable solution for the problem."

Asked to comment on Greece's role in the region, Gerapetritis highlighted Greece's status as a member of the EU and a stable and prosperous country.
"I think we could be of great assistance to all Gulf countries, and we aspire to become the voice and the entry point of those countries to the EU and the world. There are a lot of projects now in operation.

"We think that Greece can provide valuable assistance, especially in the Middle East crisis. I had extensive talks with delegations from all countries of the Gulf, as well as phone conversations with the foreign ministers from Egypt and Jordan. We discussed about the situation. We need to coordinate our actions both against terrorists, but also against any sort of humanitarian crisis and address the causes producing this vicious cycle of violence," he said.

Regarding Greece's relations with Türkiye, he noted that there have been "ups and downs" and that the two countries, as neighbours, "need to actually live with this situation".
"I think we can develop mutual respect for each other. The truth is that, in the last few years, we had a lot of tensions. There were many misunderstandings and we could not really develop a friendly and good neighborly relationship.

"Immediately after the elections in both countries, last May and June, the leaders of the two nations decided to try and further enhance our friendly relationship," he said.
Outlining the steps already taken in this direction, Gerapetritis said the aim was to  try and extend the period of calmness and tranquillity of the last seven to eight months, noting that calmness is a precondition for the prosperity of the two nations.

"We work very hard towards this goal and we have developed a rather strong relationship of frankness and openness with my Turkish counterpart. At the moment, we have embarked on a three-pillar process.
"The first pillar is the political dialogue, which involves the basic issues of political nature.
"The second pillar is the confidence-building measures. And this pillar has to do with the issues concerning the military exercises in the broader region.
"And the third is the positive agenda..." he said.
Gerapetritis stressed the importance of working on projects of mutual interest and benefit as a way to further develop common understanding, including in civil protection and dealing with the climate crisis.

On the issue of migration in Greek-Turkish relations, Gerapetritis pointed out that this is a global issue and needs to be addressed by tackling its root causes.

"Türkiye has assumed a significant burden, especially because of the war in Syria. The same happens in Greece. We have hosted a huge number of migrants and refugees in the last few years from all regional countries. The truth is that there was a joint statement between the EU and Türkiye in 2016. This statement has not worked effectively, so we are trying to revive it now. There is a common understanding that we need to implement further measures against irregular migration and to allow for some legal pathways of migration. Thus, what we really need to work on with Türkiye now, is to try and have more effective border surveillance and to work on returns of irregular migrants. It is also crucial to try and establish legal pathways for those in need of humanitarian assistance with the cooperation of the EU," he said.
He also emphasised that Greece does not view Turkey as a competitor, either regional or global, but as a neighbor.

Regarding Cyprus, the minister said: "Greece insists upon the full implementation of the resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations on a bi-zonal and bi-communal federal state in Cyprus. For us, the most important aspect is the resumption of talks. It is very important to have a meaningful and constructive dialogue in order to produce a sustainable solution. Obviously, for us, the idea of having two states is a non-starter, essentially because it goes against the Resolutions of the United Nations, but also because it does not reflect a state-of-the-art solution. People should live together and not against each other."
On the trilateral cooperation schemes with Israel and Egypt, Gerapetritis noted that both countries are Greece's strategic partners. "We have signed a series of bilateral agreements. We are at the best point of our relationship in years and we really hope that we can further enhance this cooperation and coordination. Now, when it comes to energy cooperation, I have to tell you that we developed energy synergies with both countries, the Euro-Asia Interconnector with Israel and Cyprus and the GREGY project with Egypt, which is chosen as one of the main projects of Common Interest within the EU. What we really aspire to do is to become an energy hub for the Arab world and the Middle East in general. I think our location and the stability of our government suggest that Greece is the perfect entry point to the European Union for the countries of North Africa, the Middle East, and the Arab world and we will further develop these links. Now, we are working on having a very strong relationship with India and the UAE in the context of the trade and the economic corridor that was decided in the G20 Summit. Greece aspires to become the hub for all those projects. We are proud to say that we do serve as an energy hub, promoting stability and prosperity in the region," he said.

The minister also referred to Greece's cooperation with GCC countries and the importance given to this by Athens, especially in renewable energy, highlighting the need to promote peace, prosperity and further modes of cooperation across the broader region
"...We would like to play a role in the transition to peace and be the voice of the Gulf countries towards the EU and Europe," he concluded.


tags: Greece