Athens, 7 February 2014
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos and the Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Riad Al Malki, following their meeting
E. VENIZELOS: It is with great pleasure that I welcome to Athens my colleague Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al Malki, with whom I had very interesting and substantial talks just a few months ago, in October, in Ramallah.
We also had an earlier meeting in New York, in the framework of the UN General Assembly, and so today we are having our third substantial meeting.
These frequent, sincere, open meetings reflect the excellent climate that has traditionally and historically characterized our bilateral relations. Our friendship, our cooperation, is always active, and our interest in the Palestinian issue is always strong.
Obviously, we dedicated the bulk of our discussion to the presentation of the priorities of the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union and to the situation prevailing with regard to the Middle East issue. More specifically, my colleague was kind enough to brief me in detail on the Palestinian perspective on where the Middle East peace process stands right now, based on the U.S. Secretary of State’s initiative, which we support strongly as a country and as the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
As a member state of the European Union, Greece always participates in the central EU current. Thus, not just on the level of our national foreign policy, but also on the level of European policy, we firmly support the creation of a sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian state, within the framework of a two-state solution: peaceful coexistence with Israel, within internationally recognized borders.
The momentum that exists in the Middle East peace process is unique. We welcome the real courage of President Abbas – both the Palestinian and Israeli leaderships showed political courage, accepting the U.S. Secretary of State’s peace initiative. Now is the time for us, as the international community, to take the step, which must be decisive, and that is why, naturally, we need to avoid unilateral actions that trouble the climate and do not facilitate the completion of this difficult but historically necessary process.
As both Greek Foreign Minister and President at this time of the Council of the European Union, I would like to underscore the need to safeguard this historic window of opportunity for achieving a definitive agreement. This is the only solution that can satisfy the longstanding Palestinian demand for a state and Israel’s demand for security. And I am pleased because the message that arises from our talks – despite the difficulties; difficulties that have great historical depth – is that there is always optimism. This was also the basic message of the recent meeting of the Quartet on the margins of the Munich Security Conference.
We talked about yesterday’s statement from High Representative Ashton. I am pleased because the European Union, the Council, has already drawn up a support package for the two sides; a support package that will be worked out in further detail and implemented the day after the desired solution is reached.
I also expressed to my counterpart, Dr. Al Malki, Greece’s readiness to assist in the peace process if and in any way we are asked to do so.
Naturally, we talked about our bilateral relations, subsequent to everything we announced during my October visit to Ramallah. That is, we talked more specifically about the setting up of the Joint Ministerial Committee and Technical Committees, which we will have to opportunity to discuss further during the working luncheon.
As Mr. Al Malki informed us, today is a critical day on the level of intra-Palestinian reconciliation, as a critical meeting is being held in the Gaza Strip. We hope that these efforts are successful and contribute to the peacemaking effort.
Mr. Minister, I want to welcome you, and at the same time I invite you to visit Athens again, on 10 June, for the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the European Union and the Arab League, which is one of the Hellenic Presidency’s important initiatives; an initiative that points up the fact that our relations with the Arab world always have a central place in Greek priorities, as well as in the priorities of the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
R. AL MALKI: Thank you very much. I thank my friend Evangelos who received me and the members of my delegation here today, at the Foreign Ministry, in spite of the heavy work load being faced by the Ministry at this time.
In all our meetings, including today’s, we have managed to make crystal clear our positions regarding the achievement and finding of solutions that can lead to the solution of the Palestinian problem. I thank you for the positive climate that prevailed and that helped us to get very positive results during the talks we had.
I am visiting Greece, a country that has always been sincere and faithful to the resolution of our problem regarding the creation of a permanent homeland that will live in peace and independence in the region.
This is what this country has expressed through the statements it has made in various fora. I am also here to meet with and talk to my friend the Foreign Minister about the role that Greece can play during its Presidency of the Council of the EU. The special position Greece holds at this time, as the Presidency of the Council of the EU, can help to put the focus on many problems, including the resolution of the Palestinian problem and certain other problems that arise.
It is my firm belief that Greece can play a special role, particularly now, during its Presidency of the European Union, promoting and putting forward ideas, thoughts, initiatives, so that what we all want can be achieved.
So Greece’s position will be very positive, particularly due to its Presidency during the first half of this year.
We had a convergence of views on almost all of the issues, and we decided on the very positive talks that will be carried out. We took various decisions, including the setting up of a Joint Interministerial Cooperation Committee, as well as the signing of various agreements between us, together with the promotion of cooperation between our two countries in many sectors.
We look forward, above all, to the meeting that is to convene in Athens, on 10 June, between the Arab League and EU Foreign Ministers, where we can discuss and where we expect to promote many positive messages and the resolution of problems. That is why we welcome this initiative and, at the same time, congratulate you on it.
I personally guarantee the Palestinian position and stance until the day the meeting convenes; a stance that will be encouraging, helpful, so that we can help towards the carrying out of a successful meeting to be held in early June.
Thank you very much.