“Our bilateral relations are very important to us.”
Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias arrived in Helsinki on February 15th to a warm welcome from Foreign Minister of Finland Pekka Haavisto. The two Ministers discussed ways to further strengthen bilateral relations, cooperation within EU and international organisations, cooperation in the fields of investment and the environment and developments in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean.
“Greece is an important EU partner for Finland. I highly appreciate my colleague’s visit to Helsinki and the opportunity to exchange views on European and international questions,” stated Foreign Minister Haavisto.
Greece “upholds the fundamental principle of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries,” said Minister Dendias in statements after his meeting with Finnish counterpart. Furthermore, Greece “condemns the use of force or the threat of use of force against any country,” he noted, whilst underlining that the Greek Government “will stand by EU partners, adhering fully to the principles of European solidarity.” Minister Dendias further added that he had the opportunity “to focus on the situation in Eastern Europe and especially in Ukraine.”
“We consider Russia as part of the European Security Architecture,” noted Minister Dendias, as he highlighted the fact that he was due to travel to Moscow in two days’ time, following an invitation by his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
The Greek Minister also referred to Greek-Turkish relations, saying that “it is rather peculiar that Turkey, a NATO Member and ally, decided to launch a series of provocative and illegal actions against another ΝΑΤΟ Member State, Greece.”
“Recent statements by Turkish officials, which bring into question Greek sovereignty over the Aegean islands are totally unacceptable. They are not just unacceptable for us. They have been rejected by the EU, by the US State Department, by the British Foreign Office among others,” he stressed, yet noting that “we always seek a constructive dialogue with Turkey, but a dialogue based on International Law and International Law of the Sea.”
Minister Dendias also mentioned enhancing consultations and cooperation with Finland in the fields of economy and tourism.
Minister Dendias focused on investments, shipping and green energy during his meeting with his Norwegian counterpart Anniken Huitfeldt, after being welcomed in Oslo on February 16th. Minister Dendias was accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Kostas Fragogiannis, whose presence “shows that our bilateral relations are very important to us,” he said.
Minister Dendias also briefed Minister Huitfeldt extensively about recent statements by Turkish officials against Greece and about Turkey’s violations in the Aegean Sea. “On a daily basis, Turkish officials have begun a barrage of illegal and provocative statements against us,” he told Minister Huitfeldt, stances that throw into question Turkey’s commitment to NATO’s fundamental values and principles.
“I am sorry to watch Turkey choose this exact moment – when there is a great need for NATO solidarity and a need to show to everyone we keep the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity… to use words that challenge Greece’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Minister Dendias said in statements during their meeting. Greece remains prepared to participate with Turkey in constructive dialog, he said, based on a single term – following the rules of International Right and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). “It cannot be a dialog without rules,” he underlined.
Among other issues the two Foreign Ministers discussed were the Ukraine crisis, with Minister Dendias informing his Norwegian counterpart on his upcoming visit to Moscow, where he will meet his counterpart Sergey Lavrov. He added that he planned to raise with him the issue of the Greek community in Mariupol (Mariopolis), for whose welfare Greece was “very concerned”.
Ties between Greece and Norway are based on shared values, the Greek Minister noted and both have a long-standing interest in shipping. In addition, as a green country, Norway could help Greece with its experience in green projects. “You are very friendly to the environment and so are we,” he noted. “The Government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is also a green Government and we would very much like to work with you to protect the sea,” he added.
The visiting Minister also thanked Minister Huitfeldt for sharing Norwegian experience and extensive knowledge in relations with Russia.
During his Official Visit to Norway, Minister Dendias addressed the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs in Oslo, on ‘Implementing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean as a case study’.
Greece “actively promotes synergies and regional partnerships based on International Law and the International Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)”, Foreign Minister Dendias said in the lecture. He spoke of Greece’s alliances with countries in the Mediterranean region and Turkey’s refusal to adhere to UNCLOS and to recognise Greece’s right to extend its territorial waters, threatening Greece with war should it do so. “Challenging the implementation of UNCLOS in the Eastern Mediterranean seriously affects peace and security in our region,” he noted.
On his behalf, Deputy Foreign Minister Kostas Fragogiannis held meetings with the leadership of the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, with representatives of the Norwegian business world, as well as with Greek entrepreneurs operating in the country to discuss possibilities for enhancing bilateral trade and investment, as well as strengthening cooperation in the areas of research and innovation.
In particular, the Deputy Minister had a meeting with the CEO of the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, Harald Solberg and the Director of International Cooperation and Climate, Helene Tofte, and then he had an introduction meeting with Greek entrepreneurs and the President of the local Greek Community, Ioannis Aliferis. Finally, Mr. Fragogiannis met with Ms Elisabeth Grieg, Head of the Grieg Group, which operates in the field of shipping, energy with an emphasis on innovation and logistics.
The Deputy Minister also held meetings with representatives of the Norwegian Business Association, with Hakon Haugli, CEO of Innovation Norway, the Norwegian Government’s most important body for Extroversion and Innovation and with Hans Gude Gudesen, founder of Ocean Geoloop – a company that has developed an innovative carbon dioxide power system.