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Greece, Israel Eye Closer Cooperation Amid East Med Tension

Αssociated Press

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, centre, speaks during a join news conference next to his Israel s counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, right, and Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, left, after their meeting in Athens, on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS — Greece's government said Tuesday it wants to expand trade, energy, and military partnerships with Israel and other countries in the region to counter what it considers the hostile policy of neighbor Turkey.

Greece, Israel and Cyprus, which all are at odds with Turkey over energy boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean, hold regular meetings to promote cooperation in defense and energy. They pledged Tuesday to increase cooperation.

"Our region is not going back to the 19th century," Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said after meeting in Athens with his counterparts from Israel and Cyprus, Gabi Ashkenazi and Nikos Christodoulides.

"We are creating a new geography of understanding that transcends old stereotypes, that reshapes the map of our region," Dendias added, stressing that the scheme is strongly supported by both the EU and the US as it is founded on the edifice of international legitimacy.

"Unfortunately, our meeting is taking place under the pressure of new illegal actions on the part of Turkey," the Greek foreign minister said.

"In just a few days, Turkey, is again attempting through its actions to torpedo any prospect of constructive dialogue by illegally engaging areas within the Greek continental shelf for illegal seismic surveys or by provoking with the Turkish vice president's illegal visit to occupied Varosha," he said.

Cooperation projects include a planned electricity grid interconnection between Israel, Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete by undersea cable by the end of 2023.

Tension in the region has spiked since the summer after Turkey expanded its oil and gas maritime research missions to waters in which Greece says it has jurisdiction.

Ankara argues that it has been largely excluded from regional energy exploration, insisting that Greek islands near its coastline should not project maritime zones for commercial exploitation.

Αssociated Press

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias speaks during a join news conference with Israel s counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi and Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides after a meeting between the foreign Ministers of Greece,Israel and Cyprus in Athens, on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

FM Dendias: Greece, Cyprus and Israel are creating a new geography of understanding

The close ties between Greece, Cyprus and Israel "are a guarantee for the security of the wider region, which is plagued by crises and dangerous revisionisms," stated Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias on Tuesday, during joint statements with his Cypriot and Israeli counterparts, Nikos Christodoulides and Gabi Ashkenazi, respectively, following their meeting in Athens.

"We are creating a new geography of understanding that transcends old stereotypes, that reshapes the map of our region," Dendias said, stressing that the trilateral scheme is strongly supported by both the EU and the US, as it is founded on the edifice of international legitimacy.

Dendias, as did his counterparts from Cyprus and Israel, said that they are completely open to the policy of enlarging their trilateral cooperation to include other countries in the region provided that certain self-evident criteria are met, such as respect for international law and the rules of good neighbourly relations.

"Unfortunately, our meeting is taking place under the pressure of new illegal actions on the part of Turkey," the Greek foreign minister added.

"In just a few days, Turkey, is again attempting through its actions to torpedo any prospect of constructive dialogue by illegally engaging areas within the Greek continental shelf for illegal seismic surveys or by provoking with the Turkish vice president's illegal visit to occupied Varosha," he said.

Dendias said that these developments were at the epicentre of his meetings on Monday and Tuesday, with the common denominator being to find ways to stop Turkey's aggressiveness and its destabilising role, always in the context of international legality.

"We pointed out that the antidote to the revisionist views and to Turkey's attempt to impose its positions by force is to develop a multilateral cooperation that is in the interest of all the countries in the region," he said.

"Our region will not return to the 19th century, we will not allow this to happen," Dendias emphasised, adding that the trilateral cooperations "go beyond the strict boundaries of an energy programme. Energy may be the priority but these countries are aiming at the further improvement of their economic and political relations and it may extend to a series of other sectors, such as defence, security, technology, research, water management and others."

Finally, he welcomed the normalisation of Israel's relations with UAE, Bahrain and recently with Sudan.

Αssociated Press

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides speaks during a join news conference with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias,and Israel s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, after a meeting between the foreign Ministers of Greece , Israel and Cyprus in Athens, on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Christodoulides: Turkey a threat to stability and security in East Mediterranean

In the midst of a series of a series of positive developments leading to peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean region, "Turkey unfortunately constitutes an exception," Cyprus Republic Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Christodoulides said in Athens on Tuesday.

Turkey's illegal actions lead to escalation of tension and "undermine regional stability," he said during a visit for a trilateral meeting between Greece, Cyprus and Israel, citing particularly its actions at Famagusta that contravene UN Security Council resolutions.

Speaking about the trilateral meeting, Christodoulides said it provides an opportunity to expand collaboration and security in the region, such as in the recent signing of the founding charter for the East Mediterranean Gas Forum. Agreements like this provide models of regional collaboration without any exclusions, he said.

The three countries discussed extending existing collaboration in the economy, tourism, technology, science and innovation as well as extending collaboration with other countries of the region. "All countries in the region would be invited, without any exclusions, based on the minimum requirement of respect of international law, territorial integrity of each country and of the principle of good neighborhood," the Cypriot FM stressed.

Αssociated Press

Israel s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi speaks during a join news conference with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias,and Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides after a meeting between the foreign Ministers of Greece , Israel and Cyprus in Athens, on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Israeli FM Ashkenazi; Our aim is to continue the stability and our defence cooperation for security in our region

Israeli FM Gabi Ashkenazi on Tuesday expressed his conviction that the trilateral meeting with his Greek and Cypriot counterparts in Athens has further enhanced Greek, Israeli and Cypriot relations, while speaking to the press after the meeting.

He said that the aim was to "continue the stability and our defence cooperation for security in our region," adding that "I am certain that these meetings will further enhance our bilateral relations. Via a creative diplomacy with the other countries of the region also, we will be able to attract their interest in our region," he added.

In this way, "we will be led to prosperity and to a sincere and good relation between us," he underlined.

Ashkenazi noted that, as foreign minister of Israel, he strongly believes in diplomacy and in triangular cooperation for the good of the region, especially for Israel, Greece and Cyprus, underlining that the three countries could go even further in other sectors, such as strategic cooperation, technology, peace and health.

Focusing on the Middle East, he said that after many diplomatic difficulties, "in the last months we are witnessing windows of opportunity opening up between different countries and different cultures."

Specifically, he said that the signing of an agreement for the normalisation of relations between Israel and Sudan, Bahrein and the UAE proves that they will proceed with strategic collaborations in the sectors of economy, trade and culture, offering a better future to young people.

He said that a positive wind of economic prosperity, security and stability is blowing in the Middle East and, addressing the Palestinian Authority, he called on it to take advantage of this opportunity in order to also be able to integrate these initiatives and lead its people to better days and better moments of peace and stability.

Additionally, Ashkenazi thanked the USA for its initiative for the peace and stability of the region: "We could not have achieved it without the USA's good will," he added.

Finally, he invited his counterpart to Israel for the next meeting, aiming at the continuation of prosperity and peace in the region.