It is with great pleasure that I welcome today my good friend and a friend of Greece, the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, to Athens. I would characterize this meeting as particularly important, as it follows our contacts three weeks ago in Nicosia, in the framework of the Trilateral Cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt.
This Trilateral Cooperation is a foundation for peace, stability and prosperity. A foundation that Greece, Egypt and Cyprus firmly serve.
Our meeting today, in Athens, takes place just a few days after the election of a new President in the United States. As far as Greek-American bilateral relations are concerned, I expect that, although they are already very strong, they will henceforth become even stronger at all levels.
But in a broader context, I am confident that President Biden will help restore the balance of collective security in our sensitive area. An area which, after all, he knows well as he has been keeping an eye on it for decades.
Greece therefore has every reason to welcome, together with all its partners in the region, the return of the United States to its central role as the leading NATO player. But it also has every reason to appreciate – I believe – the importance of the new President’s remark on the return of his country to the principles of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
I also believe, Mr. President, that Greece and Egypt will welcome with a positive disposition a more decisive American input in the affairs of the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean.
In our troubled region, however, our two countries have already set an example of peace and cooperation through their deeds. The emblematic apogee was the recent agreement between our two states, on August 6th, for the Partial Delimitation of the Maritime Zones. But also our common intent to continue deliberations so that this Agreement can be expanded.
This is a very important development, as we had the opportunity to discuss in person. For 15 years our countries had been negotiating but had not reached an agreement. A deal has now been accomplished.
And I think that this agreement is the best example that when we are guided by International Law, the rules of good neighborliness but also the mutual respect that must always permeate the relations between two neighboring countries, we can achieve results that are to the benefit of both of our two peoples. This great success – for both our countries – follows a similar treaty between Greece and Italy. And it heralds the route that has already been opened for the demarcation of maritime zones between Greece and Albania.
All these are diplomatic moves that translate to advances for peace and cooperation in our troubled region. Proving in practice that, contrary to the attitude of neighboring Turkey, the Mediterranean can become a sea that unites rather than divides peoples.
We talked a lot about the course of the innovative energy cooperation scheme that we are implementing in our region. I am referring to the East Med Gas Forum, in the establishment of which Egypt played a key role. It already has seven founding members, it is always open to new partners.
Every country in the Eastern Mediterranean – in principle – should be welcome and involved in this innovative energy partnership. Provided of course that it abstains from provocations and it respects international legality.
I am referring to Turkey of course. By abandoning aggression and returning to the rules of good neighborliness, its leadership could offer new benefits to its people.
President el-Sisi and I reaffirmed our explicit desire for multilateral cooperation on many levels.
We did an overview of our commercial transactions. Bilateral trade is already approaching 2 billion euros. Its prospects were not diminished not even by the pandemic. Greece and Egypt are partners with mutual export relations and common strategic goals. In fact, with the reforms we are both promoting I am sure that both our countries will soon be even more attractive investment destinations.
I also assured President Sisi that my country remains a staunch supporter of deepening relations between Egypt and the European Union.
His country is, after all, an ally of Europe, not only in the Arab world but in the entire African continent. And of course Egypt’s role in halting migration flows from Africa to our continent is equally important.
In particular, on the issue of peace in Libya, the October 23 Armistice Agreement owes a great deal to Egypt, I believe.
It remains to be implemented, with the first and most important provision being the withdrawal of any foreign force, so that there is a political solution by the Libyans themselves. Greece is always ready to contribute to such a development.
Greece’s faith in the stabilizing role of your country, Mr. President, extends to the normalization of relations between the Arab states and Israel. On the path that President Sadat bravely took in Jerusalem, it was around this time – if I remember correctly – in 1977, a route that all of his successors have wisely followed.
This is evidenced by the normalization of Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and other countries, also in the African continent, Sudan. All these create a positive dynamic in the region. And they bring peace and the lasting solution in the Middle East closer, always in the spirit of United Nations resolutions.
I didn’t neglect to point out to my interlocutor that we all acknowledge the important role Egypt plays as a beacon and guardian of moderate Islam, true Islam, the only Islam, I dare say. A crucial role, especially in times like these, when certain powers try to cloak their own geo-political expediencies in a religious guise.
It is a crucial role for the peaceful coexistence and communication between peoples, religions and cultures that have coexisted for centuries in the Eastern Mediterranean basin. As they have lived together for centuries, for millennia, in Egypt, Mr. President.
Egypt – I want to stress this and express my gratitude – shows in practice its solidarity within the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, for the efforts of Cyprus and Greece to end the Turkish occupation and find a comprehensive solution on the island.
Such a development will not only mark the closure of a decades-long wound on European soil. It will be a starting point for normalcy, stability, peace in the wider region.
Mr. President, let me conclude with a historical reference: 78 years ago to this day, the historic battle of El Alamein was coming to an end with the famous Allied victory.
It signaled the beginning of the victory against fascism in Africa. It was the starting point for the liberation of Europe. Among those who fought in El Alamein there were thousands of Greeks, who turned hospitable Egypt into a base for their struggle. So our countries have always stood together. Then in war, today in peace and tomorrow in growth and prosperity.
Mr. President, once again with sincere feelings of friendship and appreciation, I welcome you to Athens.