I am delighted to be in Athens once again. I thank the Government and people of Greece for their warm welcome.
I have had very good meetings with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras this morning and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos yesterday evening. I will meet Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias shortly.
Greece makes important contributions to the United Nations across the international agenda. I thank the people of Greece for their global citizenship.
The main topic of discussion at this time is of course the tremendous challenges you are facing in addressing the needs of so many desperate people fleeing war and persecution.
I would like to thank the people of Greece for your remarkable solidarity and compassion throughout this emergency. Despite the country’s own economic troubles, Greece has been generous in saving lives.
Greece deserves our admiration. It also deserves greater support. Greece should not be left to address this challenge on its own.
Later today, I will visit Lesbos to assess the situation for myself. I remain deeply distressed at the high number of deaths in the Mediterranean. We must work together to protect people and address the root causes of displacement. I continue to call for greater sharing of this responsibility across Europe and, indeed, across the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my deep thanks to all Greek Government authorities, in particular, Mayor Galinos, the Regional Governor, Hellenic Coast Guard and Hellenic Police. I also commend the EU Commission, UNHCR and many NGOs and volunteers who are working 24 hour a day, 7 days a week all throughout the year.
Prime Minister Tsipras and I also discussed the conflict in Syria, recent terrorist attacks and other challenges that are causing large-scale suffering and instability. We touched on the Middle East peace process; I will be visiting the region later this month.
Prime Minister Tsipras and I talked about the progress made by the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders in the Cyprus talks, conducted under my good offices and facilitated by my Special Adviser Mr. Espen Barth Eide. I welcome the leaders’ commitment, expressed in their joint statement last month, to reach a solution within the year. I appreciate the important high-level political support the Government of Greece is providing to the talks.
I also commend Greece for its active engagement with the United Nations Human Rights Council. Greece has put in place an important coordination mechanism to address various human rights challenges – including migration, asylum and related issues. This is helping at home while providing good practices from which other nations can learn.
Finally, Prime Minister Tsipras and I discussed the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the climate change challenge. I thank Greece for joining 176 other nations in signing the landmark Paris Agreement two months ago in New York. Now we must bring the agreement into force as soon as possible -- and work for the Sustainable Development Goals.
With Greece’s continued support, we can build a world of peace and prosperity for all on a healthy planet.
Thank you, again, Prime Minister Tsipras, for your leadership.