By the decision of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, former ambassador to Syria and Russia, Tasia Athanassiou, has been appointed Special Envoy of Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Syria, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
This means that Greece is finally on the path of normalising relations with Syria that are long overdue.
Dendias also confirmed this gradual restoration in relations by saying on Twitter that “By my decision, Ambassador Tasia Athanassiou is appointed as the Special Envoy for the Greek Foreign Ministry on Syrian issues.”
— Nikos Dendias (@NikosDendias) May 5, 2020
“The order will include contacts on the international aspects of Syria and related humanitarian action, as well as coordination of actions in view of the ongoing efforts to rebuild Syria,” according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Ministry also explained that Athanassiou was Greece’s ambassador to Damascus from 2009 to 2012, when she oversaw the suspension of our diplomatic mission there.
This is an extremely strategic move by the Foreign Ministry as they have placed in charge someone already familiar with Syria and their authorities, suggesting it is only a matter of time until the embassy in Damascus is restored.
Although the Foreign Ministry claims that the suspension of diplomatic relations “was dictated by the then security conditions,” we know it was ordered by the then-Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras under orders of NATO and the European Union who were, and in some instances, still backing jihadists against the secular government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Diplomatic sources quoted by Kathemirini said that the decision to appoint a Special Envoy for Syria is part of Greece’s steady activity in the Eastern Mediterranean and the wider region. According to the sources, Greece’s increased desire in contributing to efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis was stated by Dendias in his meetings with the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Otto Pedersen.
Coincidentally, the same sources also noted that Athanassiou’s assignment to the position of envoy is only the first step in the proper reopening of Greek diplomatic authorities in Syria.
Over 500,000 Antiochian Greek Orthodox Christians live in Syria and overwhelmingly support Assad. Because previous governments were too subservient to foreign demands, Greece has been disconnected from their ethnic and religious kin in Syria, which can finally begin to change now.
Hafez al-Assad, previous president of Syria and father to Bashar, also made the pledge that if Turkey was ever to go to war with Greece that Syria would open a new front in southern Turkey in support of Greece. This is because in 1939 Turkey through phony elections with the backing of colonial power France stole Iskenderun province (now known as Hatay), from Syria.
To this day, Damascus still recognises Iskenderun as a part of Syria that is occupied.
Turkey’s theft of Iskenderun was also a painful affair for Greeks. The province is historically known as Antioch (Ἀντιόχεια), the home of the Antiochian Greek Orthodox Church. The Antiochian Greek Orthodox Church has been in exile in Damascus and unable to return to Antioch because of Turkey’s occupation of the province.
The reopening of relations with Syria will once again tilt the balance of power in the East Mediterranean further in Greece’s favour as Turkey does not have a single ally in the region, except for the besieged Muslim Brotherhood government in Libya that is about to collapse under pressure from the Libyan National Army under the leadership of the Philhellene Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar.
Although Turkey has spent eight years trying to remove Assad from power through various means, including an unsuccessful invasion attempt of the Idlib province earlier this year, as well as supporting terrorist organisations, it has utterly failed in every endeavour.
The effort to restore relations between Greece and Syria has emerged after a long and sustained campaign by social media activists who shared the below image.