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Politics

Dendias: We Are Making Every Effort to Protect the Greeks in Ukraine

ATHENS – Greece is making every possible effort to ensure the protection of the Greek community in Ukraine in these very difficult conditions, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Thursday during joint statements with visiting Czech Republic Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky after their meeting in Athens.

He also stressed that all countries, especially those that hope to become members of the European Union, must align themselves with the EU stance on this issue.

“We call on all countries that maintain relations or want to become members of the EU to fully align themselves with the EU, without provisos or asterisks, in the effort to protect international law and human rights,” Dendias said.

“Greece participates in Euro-Atlantic institutions. Together with our European partners and with our NATO allies, we jointly shape a common response. We will fully implement the decisions that all we Europeans made together,” he added.

The Greek foreign minister said that the Greek consular authorities are at the side of the Greek citizens and diaspora in Ukraine “with a high sense of duty, I would say self-sacrifice”. He noted that the Greek community in the broader Mariupol area numbered some 150,000 people and their protection was a key government priority, while recollecting his own visit to the region a few days before Russia’s invasion.

Dendias reported that the Nostos 3 operation to evacuate Greeks from Mariupol, in a convoy led by Ambassador Fragkiskos Kostellenos, was underway and had been preceded by similar evacuations of Kiev and Odessa a few days before.

The Greek foreign ministry has issued advisories urging Greek citizens to immediately leave Ukraine and to avoid travelling there. Greece is now the only EU country whose consulate remains open in Odessa, under Consul General Dimitris Dochtsis, and in Mariupol, under Consul General Manolis Androulakis.

“I am especially proud of our three diplomats, who are in the danger zone and with a heightened sense of duty carry out their mission,” Dendias said, noting that he had the pleasure of conveying to them the same sentiments from the prime minister and the government.

He also referred to members of the Greek community that were killed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine: “We protested strongly to the Russia side and asked that it permit the creation of humanitarian corridors in order to give the non-combatant population that wants to move a way out.”

“Unfortunately, we are facing the greatest challenge that Europe has faced in the 21st century,” Dendias said, adding: “Our position on Ukraine is a clear position, a position of principle. We supported and support the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of all countries. It is clear that Ukraine could not be an exception. This principle is a fundamental rule of international law. It is contained in the United Nations Charter, the same charter that forbids the threat or use of force.”

“We condemn the use and threat of force from any quarter. We call for an immediate ceasefire and the departure of all foreign troops from Ukraine’s territory,” he noted.

Dendias said that Greece and the Czech Republic have adopted the same stance of principle in other regional organisations, such as the Council of Europe, where they voted for a suspension of Russia’s participation.

“The relations of the EU with Russia pass through respect for international law,” he said, noting that he will be in Brussels on Friday to attend the extraordinary NATO foreign ministers’ council and the EU Foreign Affairs Council, which will both be attended by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

He said Lipavsky’s visit was also an opportunity to examine a strengthening of bilateral relations and that they discussed the EU Three Seas Initiative and cooperation in energy, economic affairs, civil protection, defence and systems production.

Lipavsky: We are preparing to receive Ukrainian refugees

The Czech foreign minister said his country is preparing to receive refugees fleeing the war zone and stressed the need for cooperation on a European level, noting that nearly one million people have already left the country and many more are expected.

“It is very important to cooperate on a European level to prepare the proper response and to help as much as possible, also to help countries such as Moldova and Hungary, countries that are under greater pressure at this time,” he said.

Lipavski also offered his condolences for the deaths of Greeks in Ukraine and noted that the meeting was taking place at a very important moment, when many things might change on many levels for the EU and NATO.

On a bilateral level, he said that Greece and the Czech Republic have a very close relationship, that Greece is a popular tourist destination for Czechs and expressed a desire to expand cooperation in other areas.

He concluded by saying that one of the priorities of the upcoming Czech presidency of the Council of the EU will be the Western Balkans.

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