Philia Forum of European, Arab foreign ministers to be held in Athens on Thursday

The Foreign Affairs Ministers of at least four Mediterranean Arab and Gulf states and two European countries will participate in the first “Philia Forum” (Friendship Forum), to be held in Athens on Thursday, the Greek Foreign ministry reported on Wednesday.

Under the title “Building Friendship, Peace & Prosperity from the Mediterranean to the Gulf”, the foreign ministers of Greece and Cyprus, Bahrein, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will discuss strengthening collaborations against regional security challenges and will also talk about the coronavirus pandemic. France, Iraq and Jordan have also been invited to participate, the Greek ministry said in a statement.

Convening the first Friendship Forum in Athens shows Greece’s pivotal role as a ‘bridge’ of collaboration among the Middle East and the Gulf with the Balkans and the rest of Europe, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.

Bringing together these countries’ foreign ministers for the first time, they added, is the culmination of a diplomatic marathon pursued by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and especially Minister Nikos Dendias over several months.

The diplomatic sources singled out three factors of importance in terms of the conference participants: Greece’s initiative brings together both Gulf and Mediterranean countries with the EU; with the exception of Saudi Arabia, all participating countries have active diplomatic relations with Israel, a country that Greece has preferential relations with; and all participating countries have signed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which supports Greece’s right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, sources added.

PM Mitsotakis to open event

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will address the conference at 11:15 in the morning on Thursday, while statements to the press will follow at the conclusion of the conference ca. 13:35.

Dendias receives Shoukry

Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias received his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry at the ministry on Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s conference.

The two ministers reportedly discussed a broader regional collaboration and promoting stability.

Saudi Arabian FM

Visiting Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud will meet with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at 15:30 on Thursday.

French FM Le Drian to attend

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will be participating in “Philia Forum”, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.

Le Drian will be attending via teleconference, was added.

The launch of the conference and press statements will be broadcast live in English, Frech, Arabic and Mixed languages (all available through www.mfa.gr).