Greece, Cyprus and Lebanon to work toward closer cooperation
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Nikos Kotzias, together with the Foreign Minister of Cyprus, Ioannis Kasoulides, visited Lebanon on November 8th-9th to follow up on decisions taken in Rhodes in September to ensure regional safety and stability. Both Minister Kotzias and his Cypriot counterpart were received by the newly-elected President of Lebanon Michel Aoun, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and other high officials, exchanging views on the best forms of cooperation to tackle hot issues such as the refugee crisis, security, economy, energy, as well as education and culture.
The Rhodes Conference for Security and Stability had brought together the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and high-ranking officials of Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Slovakia, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. The initiative, launched by Minister Kotzias, stressed the need for collective actions as it is imperative to act together in order to safeguard security and stability for the entire region. He has repeatedly stressed the role of Beirut in stability in the Middle East and reiterated the need to support it financially as it is the country that hosts the majority of refugees on a percentage basis.
The three Foreign Ministers further confirmed their intention to strive for closer cooperation, which comes at an important time for Lebanon. “We journey together in an atmosphere of friendship, looking to the future of our three countries. We believe that Lebanon is a country that shows us all, in Europe, how to resolve the problems of the Middle East,” Minister Kotzias commented in a joint press conference held after their meeting.
Following two hours of talks, the three heads of diplomacy noted their intention to further cement ties between their three countries following the election of President Michel Aoun, which has restored stability in Lebanon. Both Minister Kotzias and Minister Kasoulides said that President Aoun’s election has greatly enhanced Lebanon’s importance in terms of regional cooperation and its role in the sensitive region of the Middle East. Minister Kotzias praised the model provided by Lebanon, where different religions co-exist side-by-side and work together, saying that this pluralism provided a positive impetus for a country that stuck faithfully to the tenets of tolerance and respect. Minister Kasoulides noted the excellent relations and friendship with Lebanon: “We are ready, with solidarity as friends, to stand by the Lebanese people,” he added.
On his part, Minister Bassil noted that greater cooperation between the three countries was a shared goal, citing telecommunications and services as promising candidates. “We have shared views and ideas, but what is lacking is implementation. With this spirit of good cooperation, we hope to catch up with the other European countries and find peaceful solutions to crises,” he said. He further stressed the importance of a stable investment environment, expressing the hope that fossil fuels will soon be a priority for the Lebanese Government. The delays in this area had been due to local problems rather than the intervention of neighbouring countries, he added.
Ministers Kotzias and Kasoulides were also received by President Aoun, congratulating him on his election and expressing their support for Lebanon during a new phase of political stability in the region. The three Ministers then participated in a conference at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik on ‘The role of Identity and History in Shaping Foreign Policy’.
Photos: Foreign Minister of the Republic of Lebanon Gebran Bassil welcomes his visiting counterparts from Greece, Nikos Kotzias, and from Cyprus, Ioannis Kasoulides; pictured upon receiving an audience with President Michel Aoun; the three delegations on conference.