Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias urged Israel to take advantage of its currently strong position to resolve the Palestinian problem, while the West must stop "doublespeak and hypocrisy" and contribute to safeguarding Israel's security.
Kotzias made the statement during a speech on Monday at a World Jewish Congress event in New York where he was presented with an award for Greece’s peacemaking efforts in the Middle East.
The award was also a recognition for the upgrading of relations between the two countries and described as a small ‘gift with great symbolism’ by the President of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder.
"It is today, when Israel is strong, when it has strong powers on its side, that it needs to resolve the Palestinian problem and contribute to the founding of a Palestinian state on terms of friendship and peace," Kotzias said during the event, which was also attended by Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and the UN special mediator for the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Matthew Nimetz.
"The strongest party must take the initiative and promote just and lasting solutions," Kotzias added, noting that the world, and the balance of power, was changing:
"...the historical trend is now for Israel's powerful friends to be showing signs of decline; Because in the future, the weak West Bank may find itself under the control of extremist groups; Because the global balance of power is changing, and because the Nazi crimes are not in peoples' memories as was the case with the first post-war generations; Because the impasses many Palestinians find themselves in may lead to hard clashes; And also, because I see the partiality of many European leaderships."
The West, he added, must also demonstrate its willingness to contribute to the creation of a Palestinian state.
"If the West wants to stop its doublespeak and hypocrisy, let it decide to make public what contribution it will make and how it will participate in the resolution of the Middle East problem. Let it stop wagging its finger at third parties and engage with specific initiatives," he said.
Kotzias said, among others, that justifiable criticism of Israeli policies cannot be an excuse for denying the state of Israel the right to exist. Nor was it possible, he added, in the name of this criticism to deny the uniqueness of the Holocaust, the "most abhorrent and unparalleled crime against humanity".
Because, as he pointed out, "one should acknowledge a key fact: that [Israel] is a state with rules, a functioning democracy," and "the homeland of a people who have suffered much through history, [which] has the right to defend itself against a potential repetition of history. But it must always do so democratically, capitalising on the democratic conscience of its people, its institutions and its values."
Outlining the common features of the historic path of Hellenism and Judaism as the foundations of contemporary Western civilisation, the foreign minister stressed that it is no coincidence that Greece is one of the safest destinations for Israeli investors and tourists. He also pointed out that Greek diplomacy has developed a number of initiatives to create a positive cooperation agenda in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East with the view to strengthening stability and building cooperative networks on a number of themes.
Concluding his speech, the Foreign Minister stressed that "Israel's security, stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, safeguarding the rights of the Palestinians, promoting peace in the Middle East, fighting doublespeak and double standards in international politics, all of these, are goals that are worth fighting for..."
On his part, Lauder said "that the Greek foreign minister and Greece have done a lot of good things for Israel. The relationship between the two countries is an old relationship that has been renewed and we thank them for this on behalf of the Jewish people."