A Memorandum of Understanding between Greece and Afghanistan was signed yesterday by Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Meerwais Nab.
The signing ceremony of the Memorandum in Greece's capital was followed by a bilateral meeting, during which the close historical and cultural ties connecting the two countries were confirmed, given the rich Greek cultural heritage in Afghanistan dating back to the time of Alexander the Great over 2,000 years ago.
Varvitsiotis stressed the importance of promoting a positive agenda of cooperation between the two countries, which, however, presupposes addressing issues of mutual distrust, such as illegal immigration.
He raised, in particular, the issue of facilitating voluntary returns for Afghan citizens, who are not entitled to international protection, and welcomed Nab's positive reception of the Greek proposal to conclude a relevant bilateral Memorandum of Cooperation.
He stressed that the issue of returns is a key part of the new Immigration and Asylum Pact presented by the European Commission.
For his part, Nab expressed the desire to cooperate with Greece on the issue of voluntary returns through the Afghan Embassy in Athens, as well as the hope for a Greek Embassy in Kabul, noting that the Afghanistan side can assist about.
After the end of the meeting, Varvitsiotis made the following statement:
"Today I had the opportunity to meet and sign a political agreement with the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister. Mr Nab and I had the opportunity to discuss issues of concern to both countries, and in particular the complex issue of immigration," he said, adding that "Greece has always been committed to supporting internal security and, of course, peace in the region of Afghanistan."
"That is why it has been participating in the international effort to address the Taliban threat for many years. In this context, Greece has welcomed and is hosting over 40,000 Afghans in our country," the Deputy Foreign Minister continued.
"Many of them have refugee status, some of them do not have refugee status and are considered illegal immigrants. That is why we have already started discussions on the immigration agreement with Afghanistan, to send a message to the people, who risk their lives crossing the border illegally to reach our country, that, even if they get here, eventually their path will not be successful," he concluded.
Varvitsiotis also said on Twitter that Greece and Afghanistan are deepening political relations.