Greece and Egypt undertake initiative for security in the Mediterranean

Greece and Egypt undertake initiative for security in the Mediterranean

Athens, February 25, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Spiros Sideris

Their determination for the expantion on all levels of the already close cooperation in the Greece-Egypt relations sealed the foreign ministers of both countries, Nikos Kotzias Sameh Hassan Shoukry, in the nearly two-hour meeting they had on Wednesday in Cairo.

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The two countries, as both ministers explained at a joint press conference, have decided to take initiatives for the development of a wider security system in the South Eastern Mediterranean region.

“There is a common line of agreement, in particular on the challenges that are urgent at this time, such as the security sector”, Mr. Shoukry said.

“For us Egypt is the heart of the Arab world” and “a cornerstone for stability in the region”, Mr. Kotzias said, noting that “the stability and security of Egypt is crucial to the stability and security in the Mediterranean”. As explained by the Greek Foreign Minister, “Greece defended Egypt in all forums because that is what the EU’s interests dictate”. “The rise of jihadism and terrorism is our common enemy”, he added.

Mr. Shoukry had previously expressed his gratitude, both to Mr. Kotzias personally, and to the Greek government, for the support his country received from Greece: “Greece offered a great assistance to Egypt; it was the country that managed to convey to Europe the real picture that prevailed and not the one some spread”, he said and stated that Egypt completed the political roadmap set by President Sisi since the beginning of his presidency, with the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections.

The Greece-Egypt political dialogue is ongoing, said the two ministers, expressing unanimity of views on the peace efforts in Syria, “from where the large refugee flows that endanger Greece and Europe originate”, Mr. Kotzias noted. “The only way is the political dialogue and finding a solution acceptable to all parties”, Mr. Shoukry said, describing the situation in Syria as “inhuman”.

Particularly positive was the assessment of the tripartite cooperation of the two countries with Cyprus, a collaboration for the benefit of the people, as was highlighted. For his part, the Greek Foreign Minister expressed the satisfaction of Greece for the development projects in the Suez Canal and the new partnerships in these, as well as for the cooperation between the two countries’ ports. Mr. Kotzias also made a particular reference to the cooperation on energy.

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N. Kotzias praised the Egyptian government for defending the rights of Christians, who were exposed to great danger in recent years, as well as the protection of all social groups.

Answering an Egyptian journalist’s question on the stance of Turkey in the internal affairs of the Arab world, Mr. Shoukry criticized the fact that Turkey carries out military strikes in Arab countries such as Iraq and Syria, emphasizing that Egypt refuses to take military action within territories that do not belong it.

Responding to a question by the same journalist for the refugee problem Greece is facing, Mr. Kotzias stressed that Greece “is paying the wars of other, some of which point a finger at us” and blamed the EU both for the limited financial aid of the camps in Jordan and Lebanon, as well as for the delay in the formulation of strategic policymaking on the refugee crisis, something on which Greece insisted from the start.

A third point of criticism for the EU, the Greek PM said, is the lack of implementation of migrants’ readmission agreements from certain countries. In particular, referring to various causes that create the refugee stream that passes through Turkey, he noted that the internal fights in the neighboring country are now also creating a large flow of Kurd immigrant, while at the same time made a reference to the illegal refugee trafficking networks and to the part of the repressive mechanism of Turkey that take advantage of the situation. He also stressed that “Turkey must implement the agreement it made with the EU”, noting however that “also responsible for its non-implication are some EU member states that want to exercise foreign policy in our region as if we are living in the 19th century”.

Finally, on the implementation plan of NATO’s decision, Mr. Kotzias said that the differences have to be solved, noting however that “what can not happen is for the solution to be outside the framework that has been set from the beginning” and this is a “message to all sides”.

Mr. Kotzias had a hearty discussion with the Prime Minister of Egypt Sherif Ismail before departing for Cyprus, where he said will convey the positive messages from Cairo.