MFA George Gerapetritis’ interview with journalist Hussein Hosni on Ghad TV


JOURNALIST: Minister Gerapetritis welcome to Egypt. How do you evaluate the relations between Greece and Egypt?


GERAPETRITIS: First of all, thank you Hussein, it is a great pleasure and honor to be here in Egypt. Egypt is one of our most important strategic partners. We do have a lot of people from Egypt in Greece, and we share common values, attitudes, idiosyncrasies. And I think over the last few years Greece and Egypt have developed friendly relations and serve as pillars of stability in the broader region.


JOURNALIST: How are the relations between Greece and Egypt?


GERAPETRITIS: I think the most important part is that we share common views. This is because both nations have a huge history, a huge civilization. We appreciate each other greatly. And I think this is important, because we go hand in hand in many respects.


Now, I think our basic field of cooperation, at the moment, is mostly in the field of energy, where we have taken initiatives, especially concerning the Eastern Mediterranean. Other partnerships relate to trade and economy. There are a lot of Greek entrepreneurs now doing business in Egypt. And we do hope that in the near future we will welcome a significant number of people from Egypt to work with us, especially in the fields of agriculture and fishery. As you probably know, we have signed an agreement with the Government of Egypt in order to facilitate workers from Egypt to come to Greece and work. We can offer significant jobs mainly in the field of agriculture, but also in the construction and tourism sectors. And I think it is important to welcome your compatriots.


JOURNALIST: The big question now: how is the cooperation between Greece and Eastern Mediterranean countries?


GERAPETRITIS: The Middle East is a volatile region. We all know that now there are some fragile regions, both in the Middle East and in Sahel. We very much cherish the contribution of Egypt as a mediator in many respects. For example, the contribution of Egypt as a mediator between Palestinians. The contribution of Egypt in Sudan, where we have to thank the Government of Egypt, for facilitating a significant number of evacuations, when people wanted to flee the country because of the civil war. And of course, the serious problem in Libya, where over the last years there has been a very unstable situation with foreign mercenaries being present. The Libyan authorities need to lead the country to elections. It is the belief of my country that we need to have a peaceful Middle East. Coming back to the Palestinian issue, we think that we should abide by the fundamental resolutions of the United Nations, calling for a two-state solution, a mutually agreed solution. In this respect Greece and Egypt have exactly the same view.


JOURNALIST: Minister Gerapetritis the main issue in the world now is the Russia-Ukraine war. What is your position on the Russian military build-up in the Black Sea?


GERAPETRITIS: There are a lot of things that one could say about the Russian invasion in Ukraine. First of all, this is an unjustified war. This is an illegal war, it goes totally against international law, it violates fundamental principles of the rule of law and human rights. This war must stop. Secondly, it causes a huge humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. It violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. We need to be very strong and tough. We have to work all together within the framework of international organizations for the promotion of peace and in accordance with international law. And thirdly there is also an aspect of food insecurity. As you probably know the Black Sea Grain Initiative has collapsed, because of Russia taking a step backwards. This could essentially result in food scarcity in many regions. We need, I think, to develop some global channels in order to secure that food supply is guaranteed for the whole world. This is why I think the European Union and other international organizations should ensure the enforcement of the sanctions. And, on the other hand, all the countries should collaborate with Ukraine by providing humanitarian and other aid in order to make sure that in the near future this unjustified war will come to an end.


JOURNALIST: Does Greece provide Ukraine with military aid individually or through NATO?


GERAPETRITIS: It is mostly biliteral aid that we provide to Ukraine. What we need to say is that we have to be very cautious, when it comes to the provision of military aid to any country. We have to provide assistance in order to defend the core state values, namely sovereignty. We, as Greeks, are totally against any sort of revisionism. And the Russian attitude towards Ukraine was a revisionist attitude. It violated the status quo in the region and the sovereignty of another country. So, we have to stand by the country which is on the defensive and we have to abide by international law.





JOURNALIST: But how can the Russia – Ukraine war end from Greece’s point of view?


GERAPETRITIS: There is not an easy way out. Unfortunately, there has been a situation that does not allow us to be very optimistic about things, because now there is a new reality after the Russian invasion. Now, the international law should be implemented to its full extent. And, on the other hand, what we need to do is to have a comprehensive plan for the day after to address the consequences of the war. Not only in terms of human losses, but also in terms of infrastructure. Many cities in Ukraine have suffered a lot. We, as Greeks, we have a vested interest in Ukraine, because there is a significant Greek population in Ukraine, especially in cities, such as Odessa and Mariupol. So, we are following closely the whole situation. What we expect to see is that this war ends in accordance with international law and that there is a global initiative for the day after as regards the reconstruction of Ukraine, re-building a new integral, sovereign state.


JOURNALIST: The next topic in our interview is related to Greece and Türkiye. Greek PM, Mr. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said that a rapprochement with Athens is in Türkiye’s interest. How is that?


GERAPETRITIS: The truth is that over the last few years we had a lot of tensions with Türkiye. There were verbal attacks, increased tension in the air and the sea. The truth is that geography has made us neighbors. Both Greece and Türkiye have to live together. They lived together for centuries. We need to establish a good relationship, a good neighborly relationship, based on good faith, but most importantly on the strong grounds of International Law. What Greece says is that International Law should be respected.


There is one major dispute between Greece and Türkiye that might be referred to the International Court of Justice in Hague, over the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. During the last five months there has been tranquility and calmness in the Aegean Sea. Following the earthquakes in Türkiye, there was a period of good relations, we didn’t have any tensions. In both countries we had elections a couple of months ago, so we have new governments, which have increased legitimacy. There is strong political mandate and I think, both countries, have the political capital, to work together in order to improve the relationship. Actually, the two delegations, the Greek and the Turkish delegation, met over the NATO summit in Vilnius a few weeks ago and we decided to take some further steps in order to make sure that good relations are maintained and that we further develop a good positive agenda. There are a few issues that we can work upon, for example there are the issues of civil protection, of tourism. We can work on illegal immigration, so there are many issues upon which we can develop our good relationship in good faith, and I am optimistic that we can find a way to improve our political dialogue.


JOURNALIST: Yes, but why does Greece cautiously welcome Turkish steps to consolidate relations with the European Union?


GERAPETRITIS: Greece is actually in favor of Türkiye’s course towards Europe. We see positively any steps ahead concerning Turkish approach to Europe. I had the opportunity in the last EU Foreign Affairs Council, to explicitly mention that we would welcome next steps to be taken explicitly for Türkiye’s EU accession. What is the state of play, however, is that there are a lot of steps to be taken. There are specific benchmarks, and conditions that need to be addressed. We are willing to work together with Türkiye in order to facilitate this course.


On the other hand, we all have to consider that there are some thorny issues that need to be addressed.  As you know there is a major issue concerning Cyprus. In Cyprus we had a foreign invasion 50 years ago, whose results are still there, we have numerous resolutions issued by the UN Security Council, with which everyone has to comply. We support a solution of bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, so that the people of Cyprus, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots enjoy the EU membership as it stands now for the Republic of Cyprus. So yes, we are in favor Türkiye’s course towards Europe but we have to see that tangible steps are taken by Türkiye according to the EU acquis.


JOURNALIST: Yes, but right now what are Greece’s conditions for improving relations with Türkiye?


GERAPETRITIS: I will be very clear. Certainly, we need calmness. We cannot have any sort of offensive language or offensive activities. So, we need to enter into this political dialogue in the context of tranquility in the region. And secondly, red lines have to be respected. It is self-evident that Greece will not accept issues touching upon sovereignty, such as Greek territorial waters or Greece’s territorial integrity, to be part of this dialogue. Obviously, Greek sovereignty issues are only within Greece’s competence and jurisdiction.


JOURNALIST: The climate crisis is coming for all of us. What are the lessons of this crisis for Greece?


GERAPETRITIS: We are very concerned. Actually, over the last few weeks we suffered a lot by the climate change. We had a number of wildfires throughout Greece. And I would like to seize the opportunity to wholeheartedly thank Egypt. You provided us with significant aerial firefighting support. We also had the support of more than 15 countries worldwide as well as the European Civil Protection Mechanism. Our climate is significantly deteriorating. We see rising temperatures, which impact our continents and our oceans. We have to work together as a global community to take some very strong initiatives in order to protect the environment. As you may know, next year, Greece will host a very significant conference, “Our Ocean” conference, concerning the preservation of oceans. What we wish is to see all countries work together, sharing fundamental values, namely the sustainability for our planet.


JOURNALIST: In this crisis, what did Europe offer Greece during the wildfires?


GERAPETRITIS: We received significant assistance. The point is that a single country cannot combat wildfires by itself. Every year, we encounter more and more wildfires, and I am pretty sure that the situation is getting worse. So, what we need to do is to collaborate with each other. The European Union has launched a very significant tool, which is the Civil Protection Mechanism. Every country suffering from wildfires can apply to this mechanism in order that the European Union deploys firefighting assistance. This is what happened in the case of Greece.


Kyriakos Mitsotakis, our Prime Minister, discussed with President Sisi ways of cooperation to join our forces and combat climate crisis. They both agreed that we need to take some serious steps to this end. I think it’s probably better to set aside some of our selfish attitudes as nations, as industrial states in order to allow future generations to live in a more prosperous and healthier environment.


JOURNALIST: What is the Greek policy in this climate debate?


GERAPETRITIS: The truth is that every year the situation is getting worse. What we need in the future is the establishment of a global initiative for the promotion of some new tools, new policies concerning sustainable environment. This could be achieved in many ways because we might have an increase in the need to combat the phenomena that are caused by the climate crisis. So, we could be bolder in our policies, probably concerning a reduction in CO2 emissions, which is the main cause of the climate crisis. I think we have to be much more decisive when it comes to the sustainability of the environment. Our Prime Minister has proposed several measures to the European Union and to Mediterranean countries. As you know, we do have Mediterranean-oriented cooperation schemes. I think all those initiatives should be focusing on the climate crisis and we should be very radical in addressing this phenomenon.


JOURNALIST: Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis, thank you so much.


GERAPETRITIS: Shukran [Thank you] Hussein and thank you for your hospitality.





Photo: Ghad TV





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