Statements by Greek Deputy PM and FM Venizelos and Palestinian FM Malki – Greek FM press release/Non-UN document

Joint statements of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos and the Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Dr. Riad Malki (Ramallah, 9 October 2013)

Wednesday, 09 October 2013

RIAD AL-MALKI: I would like to welcome His Excellency the Greek Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Evangelos Venizelos, and his distinguished delegation to Palestine and to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

We had a very cordial, friendly discussion between friends, about how to improve, how to develop the bilateral relations between the Hellenic Republic and the state of Palestine. And we have discussed possibilities and options to do so, including setting up a joint ministerial committee. And also to see how we could, through this mechanism, develop the existing relationship between Greece and Palestine, to make it deeper and wider.

We also discussed the current status of the negotiations between Israel and Palestine, and how we could work together to maintain, sustain and have results-oriented negotiations.

We also discussed the general situation in the region and the role of Greece as the Presidency of the European Union starting on 1 January 2013.

I am really pleased with the discussions, with the atmosphere, with the readiness of His Excellency to work with us, together, in order to really take such a relationship even further. And I hope that we will be able to continue very soon, in the near future, in order to take such a relationship to the level that we both – our peoples and our leadership – wish.

Your Excellency, welcome again to Palestine.

EVANGELOS VENIZELOS: [Statements to the Greek news media, translated into English] Our two peoples, the Greek and the Palestinian peoples, are linked by close historical ties of friendship and cooperation. I am visiting Ramallah today as the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Greece, but I am also the President of Pasok, and a basic element of our political legacy is the close cooperation between the two leaders, Andreas Papandreou and Yasser Arafat.

I am pleased that our discussions today with my Palestinian counterpart, Dr. Riad Malki, were very productive. We agreed to take two specific initiatives. An interministerial committee will be set up soon to talk not just on the political level, but also on a very specific, practical level regarding various issues in the sectors of health, tourism, culture, sports, investments, academic cooperation, and development, and this will be supported by the convening of a joint Greek-Palestinian business council, because, as one can see visiting Ramallah and the wider area, the rates of development are impressive and can go even higher, so there is a good deal of room for a Greek business presence here, as well as for enhancing our volume of trade.

Naturally, the main issues we discussed are the political issues concerning the region – a turbulent region. It is of vital importance that we support and encourage the peace process, the process that has begun and that must culminate in a solution on the Palestinian issue; a solution that leads to two sovereign states that can live side by side, a Palestine that is sovereign and viable, and that coexists with a secure Israel.

Also of vital importance is our cooperation in the sector of international law – specifically the International Law of the Sea.

[Transcription of statements made in English] Thank you very much for this excellent opportunity, your Excellency, dear friend and colleague.

This is our second meeting in two weeks, after our first meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly of the UN in New York.

We have very close historical and traditional links, and our official meeting is an excellent opportunity to verify the excellent level of our bilateral relationship.

But we have now two very important news and new elements at our disposal; the first one is our commitment to establish a joint ministerial committee, political consultation, but also for more managerial and co-operational approaches on different topics – for example, on economic developments, on investments, on culture, on sport, on health.

The second point is our common decision to enhance the establishment of a joint business council, in order to promote our economic relationship, not only between two political entities, but also between two private sectors, because this region, not only Ramallah, but also the wider region, is an excellent place for investments, and also Greece is now in another economic situation after six years of recession since now we are just before the exit from the crisis.

The main topic of our discussion is of course the need to protect and to support the peace process. The new initiative is something very important, and Greece, not only as a friend of the Palestinian Authority, but also as the next Presidency of the Council of the EU, is always ready to take the necessary initiatives in order to enhance this procedure, because the final target is always a mutually acceptable solution, a solution based on two sovereign, safe states, and for us a secure Palestine, viable, with East Jerusalem as a capital, is the model of this solution.

Thank you very much.

JOURNΑLIST: Mr. Minister, I would like to ask you, you talked about the negotiations, if you' re optimistic about the end of the negotiations in April, do you expect a new round, do you expect something else and since you mentioned the Greek Presidency, did you talk about concrete initiatives that you would like to be taken during the Presidency or what could this be, regarding the negotiations?

RIAD AL-MALKI: I am an optimist by nature, but at the same time I'm a realist in the sense of what to expect, based on the previous discussions, I hope that approaches, behaviour, attitudes, will change on the Israeli side, in order for us to see more productive, sustained rounds of discussion that should lead ultimately to an agreement.

We have to see, but also we would like to see more direct involvement of the U.S. administration, but also of the Quartet, in particular the EU. This is where the role of Greece really comes in, as a country that will be presiding over the EU Council, starting 1st January. We would like to see more involvement of the Quartet component, the European Union, in terms of providing guarantees for the sustainability and the continuation. And the results-oriented approach of the negotiations. We would like to see at the end of the process an agreement rather than just a frustrated kind of statement talking about disastrous results.

So, yes it is really possible for Greece, through the EU, to be a catalyst in trying to help, promoting a better atmosphere for the process. Yes, I do believe that we will stay in contact during that period of time, and I felt that His Excellency, the Minister, is ready to be engaged whenever there is the need for that and there is the request from the parties, to ensure that the process will continue and will continue on the right path.

JOURNALIST: Yesterday, we heard that Greece signed an agreement with Israel, bilateral.

EVANGELOS VENIZELOS: Greece, as you know, is an active, old member of the European Union. We are always part of the so-called mainstream in the European Union.

Our bilateral relationship, our strategic partnership with Israel, is not something negative or counterproductive for our historical, close friendships and relationships with the Palestinian people and also with the Palestinian authorities.

The improvement of bilateral relations with Israeli is something that is also very important for our credibility and for the upgrading of our effectiveness in the region, bilaterally, but also in our future capacity as the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Formally speaking, the strategic partnership between Greece and Israel is a bilateral one, but substantially it is a trilateral partnership, because the perspective is always the participation of the Palestinian Authority, not only through the final solution, but also during this very critical and sensitive negotiation period.

For us, now, the main political target is to protect and enhance these great political initiatives taken by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, because now we have a real historical momentum.

And if I can make a short comment on the previous question, to be optimistic is not a feeling. It is a kind of historical and political obligation and duty. We must be optimistic on a very realistic basis.

And, indeed, we are at your disposal, not only during the six months of our Presidency, but always, in order to support this joint effort towards a mutually acceptable, final political solution in the region, because this region is the historical, geographical, political and religious matrix for every crisis in the wider region.


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