Greek minister: Our countries have known each other for thousands of years

Peres & Abbas met separately with FM Dimitris Avramopoulos. While Shimon Peres focused on economic stability, the PA president said he looks towards the peace talks.





Both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres met separately on Thursday with Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos, although the focus of the meetings seemed worlds apart.

Mahmoud Abbas meets Greece's Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos in Ramallah May 30, 2013. Photo REUTERS,Mohamad Torokman

Mahmoud Abbas meets Greece’s Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos in Ramallah May 30, 2013. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Abbas received Avramopoulos at his presidential headquarters in Ramallah on Thursday, where they debated over the peace process, official PA news agency WAFA reported. Avramopoulos stressed to Abbas that settlement activities violate international law and undermine any chances to achieve the internationally backed two-state solution, affirming his country’s position calling to halt all settlement activities in order to save the peace process, according to WAFA.

Meanwhile, Peres told the Greek minister that both countries believe in peace, adding that he was convinced that one day peace will happen.

WAFA reported that the Greek minister emphasized the importance of the peace process based on the two-state solution in order to establish an independent state of Palestine.

The minister for foreign affairs underlined the special relations between the Greek and Palestinian people, telling Abbas that the Palestinian position is a priority of Greek foreign policy. Abbas thanked the government and people of Greek for their continuous support of the Palestinian people, according to WAFA.

WAFA reported the two also discussed US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to revive negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, with Abbas stressing the PA’s keenness to ensure success of US and international efforts to resuscitate the process.

Abbas affirmed the Palestinian side’s commitment to achieve a just and comprehensive peace based on the two-state solution, WAFA reported.

Meanwhile, Peres seemed more focused on the economic crisis in Greece than a discussion of the peace process.

Sorely in need of optimistic encouragement to overcome its economic crisis, Greece received a large dose on Thursday when Avromopoulos called on Peres.

“We know that you are going through difficult times” Peres told him. “When you have an economic crisis, people think it’s the end of the world, but it’s the end of the crisis.”

Peres recalled that when he had taken up office as Prime Minister in 1984, he had been confronted with an inflation rate of 450 per cent. People said that it was impossible to get out of the morass, and yet within nine months inflation was down to 16 per cent. The measures he took, made people angry, so much so that he was denied television air time, but in the final analysis with the cooperation of the public, Israel emerged from the crisis and has maintained a manageable inflation rate ever since.

Peres said that there are already signs that Greece is coming out of the crisis.

This was confirmed by Avramopoulos who said: We are at the beginning of the end,” but acknowledge that it will still take time before Greece is out of the woods. When it is finally over, he predicted, the people of Greece will see that their sacrifice was not for nothing. Meanwhile the government is doing the best it can, and is in the process of changing everything, he said. Great progress has been made towards the restoration of democracy Avromopoulos continued, but it is the government’s duty to change the whole system, he said.

Avramopoulos underscored that the present administration is a coalition which is a rare phenomenon in Greek politics.

In welcoming the Foreign Minister, Peres said that he was happy that a new chapter between Greece and Israel had begun, Harking back to centuries of mutual history between Greece and the Holy Land, Peres said that Greece and Israel were “like two old gentlemen who remind themselves of their youth and come together again.” Commenting on the similarities in size, age and wealth of both countries, Peres said that nowadays it’s not the size of a country that counts, but the people of a country and what they can contribute.

He was pleased that the bilateral agreement between Israel and Greece includes cooperation on science and technology and defense.

The two men have met several times over the past twenty years, the first being when Avramopoulos was Mayor of Athens. The two countries have known each other for thousands of years said Avramopoulos, who added that he had always benefitted from Peres’s wisdom.

“We are embarking on a new beginning for the future,” he said of Greece’s relations with Israel. “Our neighborhood has many routes and we must work together for peace, stability, solidarity and cooperation.” Later this year he said, there will be a high level bilateral meeting in Israel with the focus on energy, tourism, economy and research.


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