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Politics

Blinken Wraps up Visit in Athens with Tour of Agora, Meeting of EMAK Rescuers (Photos)

February 21, 2023

ATHENS – A Greece-United States Action Plan for culture was signed on Tuesday by Culture Minister Lina Mendoni and visiting US State Department Secretary Antony Blinken, prior to the latter’s departure from Athens.

The plan aims to protect archaeological and ethnological material of Greece, by imposing restrictions in specific categories. It was first signed in 2011 and renewed in 2016 and 2021, and the renewed plan was also signed by Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Lee Satterfield.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, talks to Lina Mendoni, Greek Minister of Culture and Sports, during a visit to the ancient Agora in Athens, Greece, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas, Pool)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, is accompanied by Lina Mendoni, Greek Minister of Culture and Sports, during a visit to the ancient temple of Hephaestus at the ancient Agora in Athens, Greece, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas, Pool)

Blinken was in Greece on a two-day visit to meet with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and launch the 4th Greece-US Strategic Dialogue with Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias.

Also on Tuesday, Blinken met with main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras in the late morning. Later, he was given a tour of the Ancient Agora of Athens by Bonna Wescoat, director of the American School of Classical Studies and met – at the American embassy – with the Fire Brigade’s emergency management EMAK and with emergency ambulance team EKAV, both of whom helped in the rescue efforts after Türkiye’s deadly earthquakes. The meeting at the embassy was also attende by Climate Change and Civil Defence Minister Christos Stylianidis and US Ambassador to Greece George Tsunis, and Blinken thanked the members of the teams for their work.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second right, and Christos Stelianidis, Greece’s Minister for the Climate Crisis and Civil Protection, meet with a Greek Search and Rescue team that assisted during the earthquake in Turkey, in Athens, Greece, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas, Pool)

Secretary Antony Blinken’s Remarks at the Ribbo-cutting Ceremony at the US Embassy in Athens:

Thank you so much. As I said earlier today, I left my voice in Washington, but clearly I’m going to be leaving my heart in Athens. It’s hard not to. But good afternoon to everyone here today.

I’ll keep my remarks brief, because my voice may give out, but this is an important moment, a symbolic moment, but also a practical moment for our mission here. I want to thank all of our colleagues in the Greek Government who’ve made – help make this possible.

But I especially want to thank my friend and our remarkable ambassador to Greece George Tsunis. We could not have a better representative of the President of United States in Greece than George. He is a close partner in everything that we’re doing here, and I’m grateful for his leadership. Now, I understand, George, that you may be one of the more popular people in Greece as well, and that’s a good thing.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, and ambassador George James Tsunis, right, open a new wing of the U.S. embassy in Athens, Greece, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. Blinken is on a two-day trip in Athens, after his visit to Turkey, to meet with the country’s leadership and launch the fourth round of the US-Greece Strategic Dialogue. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas, Pool)

Let me just say to the archbishop, thank you for gracing us with your presence today. We’re grateful for that and grateful for your words as well. And to the mayor, thank you Mr. Mayor for being here, the governor. Mayor, members of the embassy family, the Athens community, thank you all for joining us today.

So we have come together to celebrate our relationship and mark our continued commitment to our ally and friend, Greece. And we do that here in a space that evokes the deeply rooted values that we share, the democratic values we share, what Prime Minister Mitsotakis has called a miracle that all free peoples cherish but that binds Greek and Americans in a special way.

I was thinking earlier to something that I’ve heard President Biden say on many, many occasions. He said that what makes America different and unique is that we’re not founded on any particular race, religion, ethnicity. We’re founded on an idea. And it so happens that idea is a Greek idea. That’s an incredibly powerful thing in binding our people together.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, opens a new wing of the U.S. embassy in Athens, Greece, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas, Pool)

And over the decades here in Greece, the extraordinary people serving at this embassy have played a central role in strengthening the ties between our countries and advancing the many shared priorities that we have. This expanded and modernized U.S. presence is a concrete – or maybe I should say marble – investment in our bilateral relationship. And while the renovations will draw to a close, the work of strengthening the alliance between us will continue year after year.

Now, we’re about to cut the ribbon on the north wing. One of the great things about this job is something I’ve never gotten to do before, which is to get a large pair of scissors and cut a ribbon. So I will happily take part in that now. George, will you join us? And also can we have Deputy Director Dykhouse join us as well?

To everyone, thank you for being here today, but especially thank you for being here every day in your respective ways to make this partnership one for the ages, as it already is. Thank you.

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