‘Greece aspires to become bridge between Middle East and Europe,’ Greek FM Giorgos Gerapetritis tells Arab News

Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis supports reform of the UN Security Council and backs calls for a permanent seat for the Arab world. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 October 2023
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‘Greece aspires to become bridge between Middle East and Europe,’ Greek FM Giorgos Gerapetritis tells Arab News

  • Greek FM says his country seeks to cooperate with Saudi Arabia and wider Gulf who are “at the forefront of green projects and renewable initiatives” 
  • Gerapetritis explains the motivations behind Greece’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council 

NEW YORK CITY: Greece is boosting its cooperation with the Arab Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, which are “at the forefront of green projects and renewable initiatives,” Giorgos Gerapetritis, the Greek foreign minister, has told Arab News.

He also said that Athens has ambitions to transform Greece into a “bridge” between the Middle East and Europe, with a view to becoming a trans-regional meeting point for energy, communications and logistics on the cusp of two continents. 

“Our efforts to become an energy hub, connecting the wider region with European markets and promoting energy diversification and autonomy, are underway,” Gerapetritis said.

Greece is also exploring “prospects for cooperation with the Arab world, including the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia, which have led the way in green projects and renewable initiatives.

“Greece aspires to become the ‘bridge’ between the Middle East and Europe in energy interconnection,” he said.

In his wide-ranging interview, which covered Greek motivations for seeking a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council during the 2025-2026 term, Gerapetritis said that his country’s bid reflects a commitment to addressing the world’s shared challenges.




Calls for reform of the UN Security Council centered on opening more countries or groupings as permanent members. (AFP/File photo)

These include the peaceful settlement of conflicts, the promotion of international law and good governance, and the collective response to climate change, from cutting greenhouse gas emissions and switching to renewables to living more sustainably.

Recognizing the urgency of addressing the climate challenge, especially in the Mediterranean region, which has recently experienced a devastating toll of wildfires and extreme weather, Gerapetritis reiterated his country’s commitment to the green transition.

“Climate change affects Greece enormously and the entire Mediterranean region,” he said. “This summer, we were struck by the effects of the climate crisis, first by wildfires and then by floods. This obliges us to act on a national and global level.”

Greece aims to achieve its national target of sourcing 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2027, while it continues to “actively” implement the Paris Agreement and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Gerapetritis said. 

Last week, during the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced two climate initiatives. The first of these was a regional initiative focused on prioritizing short-term adaptation efforts among the EU Med 9 countries. 

The second was an international initiative to establish a “global climate adaptation alliance” for knowledge-sharing on innovative technologies that can predict extreme weather events, with plans to include it in the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, in Dubai.




A fire fighting aircraft drops water over a wildfire close to village of Vati in the southern part of the Greek island of Rhodes on July 25, 2023. (AFP)

Another major feature of the climate response is energy cooperation, particularly in relation to sources of renewables such as wind and solar or cleaner fuels such as green hydrogen — an area in which Saudi Arabia has made significant strides. 

Gerapetritis said that last week’s agreement between Greece and Saudi Arabia to establish a jointly owned company to look at linking the two countries’ power grids was the first step in a plan to provide Europe with cheaper clean energy. 

The joint venture, dubbed Saudi Greek Interconnection, is tasked with “examining the commercial viability of the power interconnection,” Gerapetritis said. “This is the first step of our joint plan to supply Europe with green energy.” 

The deal was signed in Athens on Sept. 27 by Manos Manousakis, CEO of Greece’s Independent Power Transmission Operator, IPTO, and his Saudi counterpart, Abdullah Waleed Al-Saadi, of National Grid SA.

A memorandum of understanding was also signed between the two countries, covering the areas of energy efficiency, oil, gas, petrochemicals, the circular economy and decarbonization.

At the signing, Alexandra Sdoukou, Greek deputy minister of environment and energy, and Nasser Hadi Al-Qahtani, Saudi assistant energy minister, highlighted hydrogen, renewables and electricity infrastructure as priority areas for energy cooperation.




Alexandra Sdoukou, Greek deputy minister of environment and energy, and Nasser Hadi Al-Qahtani, Saudi assistant energy minister. (X: @ASdoukou)

They also noted the significance of energy cooperation in the development of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, or IMEC, which was unveiled during the G20 summit in New Delhi last month, and is backed by the US as a rival to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 

At the UN General Assembly in New York, Gerapetritis said he highlighted the importance of a multifaceted foreign policy based on international law and the principles enshrined in the UN Charter in an ever-changing international environment. 

“I conveyed to all my interlocutors that we are determined to work closely with our EU partners, neighbors, allies and friends to create conditions for the prosperity and security of our nations, our region and the world,” he told Arab News.

“Greece is a pillar of stability in a region where some of the most pressing problems prevail: Conflicts in the Eastern Mediterranean, the MENA region, the Sahel and the Balkans, the refugee issue, human trafficking and terrorism.

“It is safe to say that world affairs are increasingly becoming more complicated. New challenges arise: Climate change, aggressiveness in international relations, large migratory flows, public health emergencies and food crises. 

“These challenges demand concerted efforts both at a regional and a global scale. Our main message at the UN General Assembly was that unilateral actions lead nowhere. We must get back to basics: Dialogue, democracy and the rule of law. 




This picture taken from a rescue helicopter of the Greek coast guard shows migrants onboard a fishing vessel in the waters off the Peloponnese coast June 13, 2023. (AFP file photo)

“Forging a more deliberative, representative and participatory global governance, regulating global challenges, building on global solidarity and considering the needs of future generations should become the keywords in today’s international policymaking.”

One of the pillars of Greece’s candidacy for a seat at the UN Security Council is the commitment to promoting the peaceful settlement of conflicts. 

With many such conflicts blighting the Middle East and North Africa, and given Greece’s strong relationship with several Arab states, Gerapetritis said Athens is well placed to facilitate initiatives that promote cooperation between the EU and the Arab world.

He raised the example of last April’s “Retreat on Syria” in Athens, attended by Geir Pedersen, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for Syria, and organized with the assistance of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Gerapetritis also described Arab aspirations for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council as “legitimate” and expressed his support for continuing discussions on the body’s proposed reform.

“The UN Security Council is the world’s leading body for maintaining international peace and security. The impulse of reform is understandable and the Arab aspirations legitimate,” he said. 

“Greece maintains strong and enduring relationships with all Arab countries and works closely with the Arab League.

“In addition, on the margins of the UN General Assembly, I had the opportunity to hold a productive meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council secretary general, and I am very much looking forward to attending the EU-GCC Ministerial Meeting in Oman (Oct. 9-10).”

Gerapetritis said that Greece’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council is guided by the motto “Dialogue-Diplomacy-Democracy” — the 3Ds — in response to a growing trend of global revisionism, polarization and unilateral actions.




Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis supports reform of the UN Security Council and backs calls for a permanent seat for the Arab world. (Supplied)

In addition to the peaceful settlement of disputes, Gerapetritis said the other key priorities for Greece’s UN Security Council candidacy are respect for international law and the UN Charter, and support for the women, peace and security agenda, recognizing the vital role of women in conflict prevention and resolution.

Its other key priorities include integrating climate change concerns into the UN Security Council’s agenda, the protection of children in armed conflicts and the mainstreaming of cooperation on maritime security.

“Being a maritime nation by tradition and the world’s leading ship-owning country, Greece attaches great importance to maritime security and respect for the international law of the sea,” Gerapetritis said.

“Illegal activities at sea — such as piracy, terrorist acts, arms trafficking, human trafficking of migrants and illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing — constitute major maritime security threats.” 

Greece will further promote the implementation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as the sole legal and institutional framework governing the world’s oceans and seas.

Gerapetritis said: “In 2024, we will host the 9th Our Ocean Conference in Athens on all the significant issues concerning oceans and seas, including ocean health and security, climate change, biodiversity loss, overfishing and marine pollution.”

 


Pro-Palestinian demonstrators block traffic into Chicago airport, causing headaches for travelers

Updated 5 sec ago
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Pro-Palestinian demonstrators block traffic into Chicago airport, causing headaches for travelers

  • Pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocked a freeway leading to three Chicago O’Hare International Airport terminals, temporarily stopping vehicle traffic into one of the nation’s busiest airports

CHICAGO: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocked a freeway leading to three Chicago O’Hare International Airport terminals Monday morning, temporarily stopping vehicle traffic into one of the nation’s busiest airports and causing headaches for travelers.
Protesters linked arms and blocked lanes of Interstate 190 around 7 a.m., a demonstration they said was part of a global “economic blockade to free Palestine,” according to Rifqa Falaneh, one of the organizers. Traffic in the San Francisco Bay Area was also snarled for hours Monday morning as pro-Palestinian demonstrators shut down both directions of the Golden Gate Bridge and stalled a 17-mile (27-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 880 in Oakland.
O’Hare warned travelers on the social platform X to take alternative forms of transportation with car travel “substantially delayed this morning due to protest activity.”
Some travelers stuck in standstill traffic left their cars and walked the final leg to the airport along the freeway, trailing their luggage behind them.
Among them was Madeline Hannan from suburban Chicago. She was headed to O’Hare for a work trip to Florida when her and her husband’s car ended up stalled for 20 minutes. She got out and “both ran and speed walked” more than 1 mile. She said she made it to the gate on time, but barely.
“This was an inconvenience,” she said in a telephone interview from Florida. “But in the grand scheme of things going on overseas, it’s a minor inconvenience.”
While individual travelers may have been affected, operations at the airport appeared near normal with delays of under 15 minutes, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.
Inbound traffic toward O’Hare resumed around 9 a.m.
On the Golden Gate Bridge in California, a small number of demonstrators stood by, as did police. Some protesters held a black banner that read “Stop the world for Gaza.” The iconic bridge was closed off to all auto traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians.
In Chicago, dozens of protesters were arrested, according to Falaneh. Chicago police said Monday that “multiple people” were taken into custody after a protest where people obstructed traffic but did not have a detailed count.
Protesters say they chose the location, in part, because O’Hare is one of the largest airports. Among other things, they’ve called for an immediate ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.
Anti- war protesters have demonstrated in Chicago near daily since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that killed around 1,200 people. Israeli warplanes and ground troops have conducted a scorched-earth campaign on the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli offensive has killed more than 33,700 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.


Four wounded in Sydney church attack, 15-year-old arrested

Updated 23 min 41 sec ago
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Four wounded in Sydney church attack, 15-year-old arrested

  • Police said suspect is being held at undisclosed location after attack provoked communal violence
  • The incident came two days after a man with a knife killed six people at a shopping mall in the city

SYDNEY: A knife attack at a live-streamed church service in Australia wounded four people on Monday and sparked clashes between riot police and outraged members of the local community.

A bishop and the 15-year-old suspect were among those being treated for “non-life threatening injuries” after the attack at an Assyrian Christian church in the west of Sydney.

Police said the suspect is being held at an undisclosed location after his alleged attack provoked communal violence that also left two officers hospitalized.

The incident came two days after a man with a knife killed six people at a shopping mall in the city’s east before being shot dead by police.

Graphic footage of Monday’s stabbing showed the suspect emerging from the congregation, rushing the dais and slashing wildly at Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel before being subdued by churchgoers.

Social media accounts leapt on news of the attack to make claims about the motive, none of which were verified by police.

There were tense scenes outside the church after Monday’s attack, with hundreds of angry members of the local community trying to make their way past a phalanx of riot police to reach the suspect.

An AFP journalist at the scene saw projectiles being hurled before police with riot shields and body armor pushed the protesters away from the church.

New South Wales acting assistant police commissioner Andrew Holland said the crowd had displayed an “emotional response to what took place in the church” — fueled by rumors and graphic images circulating on the Internet.

Two police vehicles and a number of houses were damaged as the protesters threw “bottles, bricks and other items,” Holland said.

One officer was “hit with a metal object and sustained a twisted knee and a chipped tooth,” police said.

“Another constable sustained a broken jaw after he was hit with a brick and a fence paling.”

Police urged the public to avoid the area amid “a large police response.”

AFP verified the video of Monday’s attack as being taken at the Christ the Good Shepherd Church, which has an online following of almost 200,000.

It is located in Sydney’s western suburb of Wakeley, a hub for Sydney’s small Christian Assyrian community, many of whom fled persecution and war in Iraq and Syria.

New South Wales state premier Chris Minns issued a joint statement with Christian and Muslim leaders calling for calm.

“We’re calling on everyone to act with kindness and respect for each other,” the statement said.

“Now is the time to show that we are strong and united.”

Assyrians trace their roots to an empire that ruled a swath of the ancient Middle East.

Since that age of empire, they have faced persecution as a religious and ethnic minority distinct from the region’s Arab and Muslim majorities.

Australians are still reeling from Saturday’s stabbing, which was carried out by a 40-year-old man with a history of mental illness.

In that attack, videos shared on social media showed unshaven itinerant Joel Cauchi pursuing mostly female victims as he rampaged through the vast, crowded Westfield shopping complex in Bondi Junction on Saturday afternoon.

A black ribbon was projected onto the Sydney Opera House on Monday as a mark of respect for the victims of that attack.


UK PM Sunak to speak with Israel’s Netanyahu, seeking to avoid escalation

Updated 15 April 2024
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UK PM Sunak to speak with Israel’s Netanyahu, seeking to avoid escalation

  • “All sides must show restraint," Sunak says

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday he would soon speak with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on how to prevent escalation in the region after Iran’s drone and missile attack.
“I will also shortly be speaking to Prime Minister Netanyahu to express our solidarity with Israel in the face of this attack, and to discuss how we can prevent further escalation,” Sunak said in a statement to parliament.
“All sides must show restraint,” he added.
Last week Iran launched explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel in retaliation for what it called an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1 that killed seven officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
British military jets helped shoot down the drones.


Four wounded in Sydney Assyrian church stabbing, man arrested

Updated 24 min 4 sec ago
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Four wounded in Sydney Assyrian church stabbing, man arrested

  • A member of the congregation at an Assyrian church rushed at the dais and slashed at the bishop, causing pandemonium.
  • Incident came two days after a man with a knife killed six at a shopping mall in the east of Sydney

SYDNEY: Four people are being treated for “non-life threatening injuries” after a stabbing at a live-streamed church service in Sydney on Monday, the latest knife attack to rock the city.
Australian police said they had arrested one man, after a member of the congregation at an Assyrian church rushed at the dais and slashed at the bishop, causing pandemonium.
Amid the panic and screams, several churchgoers rushed to safety while others tried to subdue the attacker.
The ambulance service told AFP that four men aged between 20 and 70 were being treated for injuries, including lacerations.
“The injured individuals suffered non-life threatening injuries and were treated by New South Wales Ambulance paramedics before being conveyed to hospital,” police added.
“A male was arrested and remains in police custody.”
The incident came two days after a man with a knife killed six at a shopping mall in the east of Sydney.
AFP verified video of Monday’s attack as being taken at the Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Sydney’s western suburb of Wakeley.
The neighborhood is a hub for Sydney’s small Christian Assyrian community, many of whom fled persecution and war in Iraq and Syria.
There were tense scenes outside the church after the attack, with hundreds of members of the local community trying to make their way past a phalanx of riot police to reach the suspect.
An AFP journalist at the scene saw projectiles being hurled, before police with riot shields and armor pushed the protesters away from the church.
“He has been removed from the church and taken to an undisclosed location,” police said.
They urged the public to avoid the area amid “a large police response.”
The Christ the Good Shepherd Church holds a bible session every Monday evening.
Police said they began to receive emergency calls from the scene “about 7.10 pm.”
Australians are still reeling from Saturday’s stabbing, which was carried out by a 40-year-old man with a history of mental illness.
In that attack, videos shared on social media showed unshaven itinerant Joel Cauchi pursuing mostly female victims as he rampaged through the vast, crowded Westfield shopping complex in Bondi Junction on Saturday afternoon.
A black ribbon was projected onto the Sydney Opera House on Monday as a mark of respect for the victims.


Indonesia, Malaysia warn of Middle East escalation, distraction from Israel’s war on Gaza

Updated 15 April 2024
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Indonesia, Malaysia warn of Middle East escalation, distraction from Israel’s war on Gaza

  • Drone and missile attack at the weekend was Iran’s first strike on Israel from Iranian territory
  • Indonesia and Malaysia are two of the staunchest, most vocal supporters of Palestine in Asia 

JAKARTA: Indonesia and Malaysia have warned of escalating tensions in the Middle East and Israel’s attempts to use them to deflect attention from its deadly war on Gaza.

Fears of a regional conflict have grown since an Israeli airstrike destroyed an Iranian Consulate building in Damascus earlier this month, killing 13 people, including two Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders.  

In retaliation, Iran launched explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel late on Saturday — its first direct attack against the country from Iranian territory. 

Following the attack, Indonesia and Malaysia called for restraint to prevent escalation in the Middle East. 

“Indonesia is deeply concerned over the escalation of the situation in the Middle East and calls on all parties to exercise restraint,” the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Sunday evening. 

“Indonesia urges the UN Security Council to act immediately to de-escalate tensions and continue working towards lasting peace in the Middle East, including by ending the illegal occupation of Palestine and various violations of international law by Israel.” 

Indonesia also called for a “just settlement” for Palestine through a two-state solution, which “will be the key to maintaining regional security,” the ministry said. 

Israel’s strike in Syria and Iran’s subsequent retaliation over the weekend took place against the backdrop of the onslaught on Gaza, which has killed over 33,700 Palestinians and displaced around 1.9 million people. 

One of the staunchest supporters of Palestine, the Indonesian government has repeatedly called for an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and for a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders.

Since the beginning of Israel’s military operation in Gaza in October, Jakarta has also been vocal on the international stage, demanding an end to military support and weapons sales to Tel Aviv.

Neighboring Malaysia, also a vocal supporter of Palestine, warned that any further form of provocation or retaliation could ignite a regional conflict “that will not serve the region nor the Palestinian cause,” Foreign Minister Mohamad Hasan said in a statement. 

“The international community is also reminded not to lose sight of the objective of ensuring the freedom of the Palestinians and their rights to their own lands. Any distraction from this objective is what Israel wants, which is to deflect the global community’s attention from their nefarious, inhumane and unconscionable acts in Palestine,” he said. 

“Malaysia reiterates that the main objective is to find peace and a permanent solution to the plight of the Palestinian people and not widen the conflict.”