Kotzias to visit Lebanon with Cyprus and Bulgaria counterparts

Kotzias to visit Lebanon with Cyprus and Bulgaria counterparts

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias will visit Lebanon on 9th and 10th November according to diplomatic sources. This is not a usual bilateral visit, as Mr. Kotzias will travel to Beirut together with his Bulgarian counterpart, Daniel Mitov, and Cypriot counterpart, Ioannis Kasoulides.

This joint visit was decided in September, at the Rhodes Conference on Security and Stability, which brought together Foreign Ministers from European and Arab countries.

A “positive agenda” for the region was decided at Rhodes and the possibilities of enhancing cooperation and networking among the participating States were explored. Among the topics discussed at the Conference were cooperation between universities and research centers from all countries and joint initiatives primarily aimed at groups of young people, who are targets of extremists.

The Lebanon visit, a key country to stability throughout the Middle East is by no means a coincidence, as it is directly connected with the promotion of the Rhodes Conference agenda. From the moment Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias took over at the FM in early 2015 he warned his European counterparts about the need of direct support to Lebanon and Jordan in addressing the refugee crisis.

The forthcoming visit of the three European Foreign Ministers who were all present at the Rhodes Conference is on the one hand an effective expression of European solidarity to the Lebanese authorities and an indicator of trust towards Lebanon and the role it has in the area, and on the other support for Lebanon’s efforts in addressing the refugee problem.

Lebanon is the country with the largest refugee population, percentage wise, in the world. Greece strongly opposed the discontinuation of UN refugee support to Lebanese regions and Jordan. The Greek Foreign Minister has repeatedly praised the Lebanese model, which he states is a model of religious and cultural pluralism which has to be protected.

The visit to Lebanon by the three Foreign Ministers is about to take place at a particularly important moment, as the recent election of Michel Aoun to the presidential position marks the end of a serious institutional crisis that lasted more than two years.The right conditions are being formed for constructive dialogue between the political forces, that will benefit the people of Lebanon.

Furthermore, we cannot forget that Lebanon and Jordan were the two countries that extended the successful tripartite cooperation with Greece and Cyprus in 2015. The excellent level of Greek-Lebanese relations is directly reflected in the very good personal relations between the Greek Foreign Minister and his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil.

In addition to the latest developments on security and the refugee crisis, the discussions to be held between the Foreign Ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Lebanon will also focus on energy, education and culture, while at the same time, special discussions are being planned on youth issues, university networking and green energy.

The open discussion to be held at the USEK University of Lebanon, on “The central role of History and Identity in the formulation of foreign policy” will be particularly important.

This is extremely interesting if you consider that this year is the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of the notorious Sykes – Picot Agreement, which to a point determined the modern history of the Middle East and the configuration of its borders and states, including that of Lebanon./IBNA