The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, Jose Manuel Albares Bueno, was in Athens on Tuesday afternoon, where, as we informed you, he met with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and discussed a possible termination of military cooperation between Spain and Turkey.
The two ministers had a private meeting, after which they made statements to the press and then followed by extended talks between the delegations of the two countries.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with his Spanish counterpart, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said:
It is with great pleasure that I welcome today, here in Athens, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. José Manuel Albares Bueno. Our discussions are always particularly useful and beneficial.
First of all, our countries have a lot in common. They are both Mediterranean and South European countries. They are EU partners since the 1980s, they are NATO allies.
They are distinguished by their commitment to shared values, such as democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. Today I had the opportunity to have a fruitful and honest discussion with my Spanish counterpart on the whole range of our bilateral relations.
It was confirmed that there is great scope for their further development in many areas, such as trade, tourism and energy.
This is also demonstrated in the rapidly advancing relations in the economic field. Spain has become an important source of goods and investment for Greece.
Our bilateral trade exceeds EUR 2 billion. I believe it even exceeds EUR 3 billion, which creates high potential for its further strengthening.
We also had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of foreign policy issues. We agreed on the need for closer cooperation between us, more regular meetings between us.
We made progress with the issue of signing a memorandum of cooperation between us, so that there are regular contacts both at ministerial level, but also at the level of the Ministries’ Secretaries-General.
I hope that we will soon be able to come up with the text of this memorandum and sign it during a future return visit of mine to Madrid. We also agreed to deepen our economic relations, with the establishment of fora for cooperation between entrepreneurs from the two countries.
And we also thought that it would be extremely beneficial if political contacts were combined with the organization of an economic Forum every time they took place. I think that this will help both our mutual understanding and the advancement of our particularly important relations.
In any case, our exchange of views took place in a very friendly climate. After all, the ties between our peoples have a historical background. One of the most prominent artists of the Spanish renaissance became known as “El Greco”, “the Greek”.
You will also allow me, my dear colleague, to refer to a historic naval battle, which took place here in Greek waters off Nafpaktos, in Lepanto. This year marks 450 years since the naval battle. In fact, it happened on the same date as my birthday.
This was Christian Europe’s bulwark against the expansionist plans of the Ottoman Empire that were initiated during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. At the time, the Sultan believed that he could transform the Mediterranean into a Turkish lake.
Of course, history does not repeat itself. However, I had the opportunity to emphasize to my colleague that present-day Turkey is a factor of destabilization in the Mediterranean with the casus belli, the threat of war against Greece at the sharp end. This is unprecedented. It is the only country on the planet that has issued a threat of war against another country, if in fact the other country exercises its lawful right.
But that is not all. The null and void, illegal Turkish-Libyan Memorandum is also a Turkish action condemned by all member states of the European Union.
There is the illegal occupation of part of the Republic of Cyprus. You will be in Cyprus tomorrow. You will discuss these issues with our colleague, Nikos Christodoulides. There is also the instrumentalization of the migrant issue, which has found an imitator in Belarus.
The common denominator of these actions is the total disrespect for International Law and the Law of the Sea. But International Law and the Law of the Sea are part of our acquis, the European acquis.
And of course these practices are directly at odds with the United Nations Charter and with the values and principles advocated by the European Union, values and principles advocated and respected by both Greece and Spain. And I was honest in our conversation as good friends should always speak honestly.
I expressed concern about any intention from the part of Spain to step up its military cooperation with Turkey. I emphasized that, since 2008, through our Common Position 944 of the December 8 (2008) Council on the definition of common rules governing the export of military technology, we the member states have committed ourselves not to export technology and equipment, military technology and equipment, that could be used for aggressive actions or for regional destabilization.
And I am very pleased to say that I have received assurances from my Spanish counterpart that Spain acts and will always act within the European framework and within the framework of European decisions. And for this clear position I would like to thank him.
Besides, these positions, which I outlined today to my colleague, I had also expressed in a letter that I had sent to his predecessor a year ago.
And of course not only to Spain; I had sent similar letters to other counterparts of mine in the European Union, because these positions are the positions of the Greek government and the Prime Minister, Mr. Mitsotakis, has repeatedly outlined them to his counterparts in the European Council.
Concluding, I would like to emphasize once again that Greece looks forward to strengthening cooperation with Spain; within the European Union but also within MED 9, as well as at bilateral level.
We also look forward to strengthening cooperation between Greece and Spain in the context of European solidarity on all issues of concern to both countries. Because, obviously, we also have the obligation to stand by Spain in whatever challenges Spain may face or will face. European solidarity is not an à la carte affair. We stand by each other.
Dear José Manuel, let me thank you again for your presence today. And I would like to emphasize, while thanking you, how much the Greek government and Greek society appreciated the fact that immediately after my phone call, you expressed your intention to come to Athens, and you fulfilled your promise in just over a week’s time.
I really look forward to continuing our talks immediately afterwards, which will focus on the development of bilateral cooperation.” the Greek Foreign Minister said.
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