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“Greece aspires to become a bridge between the Middle East and Europe,” Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis told Arab News

NEW YORK: Greece is strengthening cooperation with Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, which are “at the forefront of green projects and renewable initiatives”, said Giorgos Gerapetritis, the Greek foreign minister , at Arab News.

He also said Athens had ambitions to transform Greece into a “bridge” between the Middle East and Europe, with a view to becoming a trans-regional meeting point for energy, communications and logistics, on the border of two continents.

“Our efforts to become an energy hub, connecting the wider region to European markets and promoting energy diversification and autonomy, are ongoing,” Gerapetritis said.

Greece is also exploring “prospects of cooperation with the Arab world, notably the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, which have led the way in green projects and renewable initiatives.”

“Greece aspires to become the ‘bridge’ between the Middle East and Europe in terms of energy interconnection,” he said.

In his in-depth interview, which focused on Greek motivations for running for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council during the 2025-2026 term, Gerapetritis said his country’s candidacy reflects a commitment to addressing common challenges of the world.

Calls for reform of the UN Security Council have centered on opening more countries or groups as permanent members. (AFP/archive photo)

These include the peaceful resolution of conflicts, the promotion of international law and good governance, as well as the collective response to climate change, from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to switching to energy renewables for a more sustainable lifestyle.

Recognizing the urgency of addressing the climate challenge, particularly in the Mediterranean region, which has recently experienced devastating consequences of wildfires and extreme weather conditions, Gerapetritis reiterated his country’s commitment to the green transition .

“Climate change is hugely affecting Greece and the entire Mediterranean region,” he said. “This summer we were hit by the effects of the climate crisis, first by wildfires, then by floods. This requires us to act at national and global levels.

Greece aims to meet its national target of sourcing 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2027, while continuing to “actively” implement the Paris Agreement and the EU’s 2030 Agenda. ‘UN for Sustainable Development, Gerapetritis said.

Last week, during the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced two climate initiatives. The first of these was a regional initiative focused on prioritizing short-term adaptation efforts among the 9 EU Med countries.

The second was an international initiative to establish a “global climate adaptation alliance” for knowledge sharing on innovative technologies capable of predicting extreme weather events, with the intention of including it in the next Conference of United Nations on climate change, COP28, in Dubai.

A firefighting plane drops water on a forest fire near the village of Vati, in the south of the Greek island of Rhodes, July 25, 2023. (AFP)

Another major aspect of the climate response is energy cooperation, particularly regarding renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power or cleaner fuels like green hydrogen – an area where the Saudi Arabia has made significant progress.

Gerapetritis said last week’s agreement between Greece and Saudi Arabia to create a joint company to connect the two countries’ power grids was the first step in a plan to provide Europe with a cheaper clean energy.

The joint venture, called Saudi Greek Interconnection, is tasked with “examining the commercial viability of the electricity interconnection,” Gerapetritis said. “This is the first step in our common plan to provide Europe with green energy.”

The agreement was signed in Athens on September 27 by Manos Manousakis, CEO of the Greek independent electricity transmission operator, IPTO, and his Saudi counterpart, Abdullah Waleed Al-Saadi, of National Grid SA.

A memorandum of understanding was also signed between the two countries, covering the areas of energy efficiency, oil, gas, petrochemicals, circular economy and decarbonization.

During the signing, Alexandra Sdoukou, Greek Deputy Minister of Environment and Energy, and Nasser Hadi Al-Qahtani, Saudi Deputy Minister of Energy, highlighted hydrogen, renewable energy and electricity infrastructure as priority areas for energy cooperation.

Alexandra Sdoukou, Greek Deputy Minister of Environment and Energy, and Nasser Hadi Al-Qahtani, Saudi Deputy Minister of Energy. (X: @ASdoukou)

They also highlighted the importance of energy cooperation in the development of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, or IMEC, which was unveiled at the G20 summit in New Delhi last month and is supported by the United States. United as a rival to the Chinese belt. and Roads Initiative.

At the UN General Assembly in New York, Gerapetritis said he emphasized the importance of a multifaceted foreign policy based on international law and the principles enshrined in the UN Charter in an ever-changing international environment.

“I made clear to all my interlocutors that we are determined to work closely with our partners, neighbors, allies and friends of the EU to create the conditions for the prosperity and security of our nations, our region and the world,” he told Arab News.

“Greece is a pillar of stability in a region where some of the most pressing problems prevail: conflicts in the Eastern Mediterranean, the MENA region, the Sahel and the Balkans, the refugee issue, human trafficking and terrorism.

“It’s safe to say that global affairs are becoming increasingly complicated. New challenges are emerging: climate change, aggressiveness in international relations, significant migratory flows, public health emergencies and food crises.

“These challenges require concerted efforts regionally and globally. Our main message to the UN General Assembly was that unilateral actions lead nowhere. We must return to the basics: dialogue, democracy and the rule of law.

This photo taken from a Greek coast guard rescue helicopter shows migrants aboard a fishing boat in the waters off the coast of the Peloponnese, June 13, 2023. (AFP file photo)

“Forging a more deliberative, representative and participatory global governance, regulating global challenges, relying on global solidarity and taking into account the needs of future generations should become the key words in the development of international policies today . »

One of the pillars of Greece’s candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council is the commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

With many such conflicts ravaging the Middle East and North Africa, and given Greece’s close relations with several Arab states, Gerapetritis said Athens was well placed to facilitate initiatives promoting cooperation between the EU and the Arab world.

He cited the example of the “Syria Retreat” last April in Athens, in which Geir Pedersen, the special envoy of the UN Secretary General for Syria, participated and organized with the help of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Gerapetritis also called Arab aspirations for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council “legitimate” and expressed support for continued discussions on the body’s proposed reform.

“The UN Security Council is the principal global body responsible for maintaining international peace and security. The impetus for reforms is understandable and Arab aspirations legitimate,” he said.

“Greece maintains strong and lasting relations with all Arab countries and works closely with the Arab League.

“Furthermore, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, I had the opportunity to hold a productive meeting with the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and I very much look forward to attending the meeting EU-GCC Ministerial Meeting in Oman (October 2017). 9-10).”

Gerapetritis said Greece’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council was guided by the motto “Dialogue-Diplomacy-Democracy” – the 3Ds – in response to a growing trend of global revisionism, polarization and unilateral actions.

Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis supports reform of the UN Security Council and supports calls for a permanent seat for the Arab world. (Provided)

Besides the peaceful resolution of disputes, Gerapetritis said that other key priorities of the Greek candidacy for the UN Security Council are respect for international law and the UN Charter, as well as support for the agenda of women, peace and security, recognizing the vital role of women in conflict. prevention and resolution.

Its other key priorities include integrating climate change concerns into the UN Security Council agenda, protecting children in armed conflict and integrating maritime security cooperation.

“As a maritime nation by tradition and the world’s largest ship-owning country, Greece attaches great importance to maritime security and respect for international law of the sea,” Gerapetritis said.

“Illegal activities at sea – such as piracy, terrorist acts, arms trafficking, human trafficking and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing – pose major threats to maritime security. »

Greece will further promote the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as the sole legal and institutional framework governing the world’s oceans and seas.

Gerapetritis said: “In 2024, we will host the 9th Our Ocean Conference in Athens on all important issues concerning the oceans and seas, including ocean health and safety, climate change, biodiversity loss, overfishing and marine pollution.

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