The earthquakes in Turkey and Syria have shown, from the reactions of both the Greek and Turkish societies, that people are much closer than their leaderships sometimes think, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in his speech at the Diplomatic Academy of Paraguay when discussing "Greece's foreign policy in its neighbourhood and beyond: Links with Latin America, the case of Paraguay" on Thursday in Asunción.
"Greece, will continue supporting the Turkish and Syrian people in their hour of need," he underlined, while also noting that there was "growing instability in our wider region, fuelled mainly by revisionist agendas."
"...Our neighbourhood, unfortunately, is still facing many challenges. Destabilising and aggressive actors still aim at implementing revisionist agendas. Under such pressure, my country remains calm but firm," he said, stressing that Greece "takes pride in being a bastiοn of democracy. It is our sincere belief that respect for International Law, including International Law of the Sea, and multilateral cooperation are key instruments to achieve the aim of peace, stability and democracy."
Dendias' full speech follows:
I am really honoured that I am the first Greek Foreign Minister to visit your important and beautiful country. I hope that my visit here today will allow me to give you at least a glimpse of Greece’s foreign policy, both in our neighbourhood but also beyond that. And as an individual country, but also in our capacity as a member of the European Union.
Greece shares a long-standing, sincere and close friendship with Paraguay and the other countries of Latin America. And this is a solid friendship because it’s a friendship that is based on common values and common principles. And what we are actively trying to do today is re-engage with our Latin America partners, especially after the crisis of the pandemic.
Yesterday, I was in Argentina, the day before I was in Uruguay, at the beginning of the week I was in Brazil, I will be visiting Panama and Jamaica tomorrow and the day after. This is our effort to re-engage with an entire continent. And a continent, allow me to say, that has so much to offer at all levels, also in bilateral and in multilateral relations.
My visit here, today, aims at solidifying our relations with Paraguay. There is an expression “ Put flesh on the bone”. It is our opportunity to discuss and promote the only solid basis of international affairs, which is the International Law and, if I may say so, also coming from a maritime country, the International Law of the Sea, the UNCLOS.
And allow me to express my deepest respect for Paraguay because, although you are a landlocked country, you have signed and ratified the UNCLOS, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
On the political level, we have signed today a Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of a mechanism of Political Consultations. And, we are looking forward to creating a link, also, at the level of our Diplomatic Academies, including the signing of the relevant Agreement, which took place a few minutes ago at this building and in this room. And allow me to say, allow me to express the hope to welcome you soon, dear Julio, in Athens, in Greece.
But despite this lack of bilateral visits up to now, our countries are walking closely together, in the framework of International Organisations. And I am sure you already know, we both strive to gain a seat in the United Nations Security Council, before this decade is over.
But we are also connected in other areas. Trade, environment. Paraguay excels. You managed to produce a hundred percent of your electrical power from renewable energy sources. We were ranked eighth worldwide in the participation of renewable energy sources in the electricity production mix and we only hope that we can imitate your example.
We strive to make progress on other issues related to environmental protection, especially in the maritime sector. Greece, a traditionally maritime nation, will host in 2024, together with the USA, the 9th “ Our Ocean Conference”. A Conference that will focus not just on the oceans, but on all aspects of current environmental challenges to ensure a better future for the generations to come.
And we do hope that Paraguay will be represented at the highest level at this Conference. Allow me also to say that the word “ ocean”, in its initial meaning, did not mean the ocean as we understand it today. It is a Greek god that was related to the sea. At the time, the ocean in the mind of the people was just the Mediterranean. So, “ ocean” means in our language, still, the concept of the sea; but the sea not disconnected, but connected with the overall environmental challenges we are facing, the rainforest, for example.
So, we would very much like to expand our cooperation on environmental issues with a landlocked country that cares a lot about rivers, such as Paraguay.
Allow me also to say that in our collective European mindset, Latin America, your continent, is considered Europe’s natural friend and ally. Because, regardless of the geographical distance, there is an undeniable cultural proximity. Allow me to use my own experience and say that I feel very much at home here, although I am just a few hours on Paraguayan soil.
And we do share political, cultural, economic ties that are not to be compared with any other continent in the world. A tangible proof of this was the EU-CELAC Meeting in Buenos Aires this October. And we clearly see that this relationship has not at all reached its full potential yet. So, we are very much willing to work in that direction.
In this framework, I would like to draft the outline of the Greek foreign policy in our current environment. A policy that is shaped by Greece’s membership of the EU, which I have said before, but also of the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO.
As you know, there is growing instability in our wider region, fuelled mainly by revisionist agendas. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europe has been experiencing, within the borders of the continent, war after many decades. This has huge repercussions on the energy sector, on the food sector, on the supply chains. It affects the whole world.
We, Greece, clearly condemned the invasion of Ukraine. As we will do, in all such cases, we consistently stand by the side of International Law. And we have proven ourselves as a determined advocate for peace all around the world, a reliable ally, a pillar of stability both in our close neighbourhood, the Balkans, but also in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, in the Middle East, in North Africa.
Also, we take pride in being a bastiοn of democracy. It is our sincere belief that respect for International Law, including International Law of the Sea, and multilateral cooperation are key instruments to achieve the aim of peace, stability and democracy.
Since 2013, Greece has created a vibrant network of trilateral cooperation mechanisms with countries of our region. And these trilateral mechanisms, to this day, have borne fruit in many sectors.
And we have actively promoted dialogue and created mutually beneficial synergies with our neighbours and trusted partners. Let me name a few: Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, UAE. And we have also done the same with our Balkan allies.
In this vein, we have moved forward, in the last three years, by delimiting our maritime zones with Italy and Egypt, according to the provisions of UNCLOS. And allow me to say, it was easier said than done. Because we have been negotiating with Italy for half a century, 50 years, and we have been negotiating with Egypt for 35 years.
So, I was so proud to put my signature on behalf of the Hellenic Republic to these Agreements.
But I have to say that our neighbourhood, unfortunately, is still facing many challenges. Destabilising and aggressive actors still aim at implementing revisionist agendas. Under such pressure, my country remains calm but firm.
But, let me say, the recent catastrophic earthquakes in Turkey and Syria showed, by the reactions of both the Greek and the Turkish societies, that societies and people are much closer than their leaderships sometimes think. And again, allow me to repeat, we, Greece, will continue supporting the Turkish and Syrian people in their hour of need.
But in the overall international scene, peace, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, are the only way to ensure stability and prosperity for all. And allow me to say, it is up to you as young diplomats to continue in this path, for the benefit of your country, your society, of all people of this world.
And I am deeply grateful to you, dear Minister, but also to the students, for giving me this opportunity to address you here today. And allow me to wish you all the best for your future as proud representatives of your beautiful and important country.
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