Greece, Cyprus and Lebanon to work toward closer cooperation, Kotzias says

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias on Wednesday joined his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides and Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in Beirut, for a meeting confirming their intention to strive for closer cooperation at an important time for Lebanon, along the lines opened at the Rhodes Conference for Stability and Security in September.

“We journey together in an atmosphere of friendship, looking to the future of our three countries. We believe that Lebanon is a country that shows us all, in Europe, how to resolve the problems of the Middle East,” Kotzias commented in a joint press conference held after their meeting.

Following two hours of talks, the three ministers noted their intention to further cement ties between their three countries following the election of President Michel Aoun, which has restored stability in Lebanon. Kotzias and Kasoulides said that Aoun’s election has greatly enhanced Lebanon’s importance in terms of regional cooperation and its role in the sensitive region of the Middle East. They said their talks focused on cooperation in economic affairs, culture, tourism, academic collaboration and education.

Kotzias praised the model provided by Lebanon, where different religions existed side by side and worked together, and said this pluralism provided a positive impetus for a country that stuck faithfully to the tenets of tolerance and respect.

Kasoulides noted the excellent relations and frienship with Lebanon and said its new president would proceed with reforms based on the greatest possible consensus. “We are ready, with solidarity as friends, to stand by the Lebanese people,” he added.

Bassil noted that greater cooperation between the three countries was a shared goal, citing telecommunications and services as promising candidates. “We have shared views and ideas but what is lacking is implementation. With this spirit of good cooperation, we hope to catch up with the other European countries and find peaceful solutions to crises,” he said.

The Lebanese minister stressed the importance of a stable investment environment and expressed hope that fossil fuels will soon be a priority for the Lebanese government. The delays in this area had been due to local problems rather than the intervention of neighbouring countries, he added.

Kotzias and Kasoulides were also received by Aoun, congratulating him on his election and expressing their support for Lebanon during a new phase of political stability in the region. The three ministers then participated in a conference at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik on “The role of Identity and History in Shaping Foreign Policy.”