Tuesday , July 23 2024

‘The Athens Retreat for Syria’

 

An informal meeting or ‘retreat’ for Syria was held in Athens on April 21st-23rd, the hosting of which indicates Greece’s interest in the developments in Syria and that it recognises the importance of a solution for Syria in ensuring conditions of stability and security in the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean. Participating in the event was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, among others, including the EU Member State special representatives for Syria. Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias received the UN special envoy for Syria at the Foreign Ministry and also addressed the opening of the event.

 

The Athens Retreat for Syria was organised by the European Union with the contribution of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The international community must aim at safeguarding Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity Minister Dendias said during the welcoming remarks. These factors comprise the basic principles of Greece’s foreign policy he added at the meeting held in Kavouri on the coast south of Athens.

The war in Syria “has become the epicentre of a serious humanitarian crisis and of illegal military interventions by third parties, against international laws, while we have also witnessed the rise of terrorist and criminal networks,” Minister Dendias said. As a country very near Syria, and one with very strong historical ties with it – including its local Christian communities – Greece has felt the repercussions from the war first hand he noted. Greece is trying to help in every possible way in the humanitarian aspect, through the United Nations’ efforts and in coordination with its European Union partners.

In this spirit, Minister Dendias said, Greece strongly supports the efforts by the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen. “The worsening of relations with Russia has highlighted the significance of Arab countries in Europe’s energy and food security. As a result, our collaboration with regional players has become a significant priority for Greece, but also, we believe, for the European Union as well,” he noted.

Additionally, the war in Syria has underlined the need to protect civilians from significant violations of human rights and of International Law in general, while Greece has provided humanitarian help for Syria and, after the catastrophic earthquakes, for civilians in Turkey as well.

“On our part, we have been working for a while on the building of a framework of security in the Middle East and the East Mediterranean,” Minister Dendias reiterated, “a framework firmly based on International Law and on the principle of good neighbourly relations, where all are invited to collaborate with us as long as they commit to these principles.”

Greece and the Cyprus Republic, for example, have invested in multilateral collaborations with key partners like Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel – mechanisms of collaboration that “provide added value to our societies, our environment and our economies,” he noted.

The Greek Foreign Minister also pointed out that as Syria lies in its immediate neighbourhood, the EU carries a particular obligation in terms of stability in the Middle East, while “Greece is determined to play a leading role in further initiatives to promote collaboration between the European Union and the Arab world,” sharing in the common goal of peace in Syria.

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