Greece's Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos , Abbas.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres met separately on Thursday with Greek Minister of Foreign
Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos, although the focus of the meetings seemed worlds apart.
Abbas received Avramopoulos at his presidential headquarters in Ramallah on
Thursday, where they debated over the peace process, official PA news agency
WAFA reported. Avramopoulos stressed to Abbas that settlement activities violate
international law and undermine any chances to achieve the internationally
backed two-state solution, affirming his country’s position calling to halt all
settlement activities in order to save the peace process, according to
Meanwhile, Peres told the Greek minister that both countries believe in peace, adding that he was convinced that one day peace will happen.
WAFA reported that the Greek minister emphasized the importance of
the peace process based on the two-state solution in order to establish an
independent state of Palestine.
The minister for foreign affairs
underlined the special relations between the Greek and Palestinian people,
telling Abbas that the Palestinian position is a priority of Greek foreign
policy. Abbas thanked the government and people of Greek for their
continuous support of the Palestinian people, according to WAFA.
WAFA reported the two also
discussed US Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to revive negotiations
between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, with Abbas stressing the PA's keenness
to ensure success of US and international efforts to resuscitate the
Abbas affirmed the Palestinian side’s commitment to achieve a
just and comprehensive peace based on the two-state solution, WAFA reported.
Meanwhile, Peres seemed more focused on the economic crisis in Greece than a discussion of the peace process.
Sorely in need of optimistic encouragement to overcome its economic crisis,
Greece received a large dose on Thursday when Avromopoulos called on Peres.
"We know that you are
going through difficult times" Peres told him. "When you have an economic
crisis, people think it's the end of the world, but it's the end of the crisis."
Peres recalled that when he had taken up office as Prime Minister in 1984, he
had been confronted with an inflation rate of 450 per cent. People said that it
was impossible to get out of the morass, and yet within nine months inflation
was down to 16 per cent. The measures he took, made people angry, so much so
that he was denied television air time, but in the final analysis with the
cooperation of the public, Israel emerged from the crisis and has maintained a
manageable inflation rate ever since.
Peres said that there are already
signs that Greece is coming out of the crisis.
This was confirmed by
Avramopoulos who said: We are at the beginning of the end," but acknowledge that
it will still take time before Greece is out of the woods. When it is finally
over, he predicted, the people of Greece will see that their sacrifice was not
for nothing. Meanwhile the government is doing the best it can, and is in the
process of changing everything, he said. Great progress has been made towards
the restoration of democracy Avromopoulos continued, but it is the government's
duty to change the whole system, he said.
Avramopoulos underscored that
the present administration is a coalition which is a rare phenomenon in Greek
In welcoming the Foreign Minister, Peres said that he was happy
that a new chapter between Greece and Israel had begun, Harking back to
centuries of mutual history between Greece and the Holy Land, Peres said that
Greece and Israel were "like two old gentlemen who remind themselves of their
youth and come together again." Commenting on the similarities in size, age and
wealth of both countries, Peres said that nowadays it's not the size of a
country that counts, but the people of a country and what they can
He was pleased that the bilateral agreement between Israel
and Greece includes cooperation on science and technology and
The two men have met several
times over the past twenty years, the first being when Avramopoulos was Mayor of
Athens. The two countries have known each other for thousands of years said
Avramopoulos, who added that he had always benefitted from Peres's
"We are embarking on a new beginning for the future," he said of
Greece's relations with Israel. "Our neighborhood has many routes and we must
work together for peace, stability, solidarity and cooperation." Later this year
he said, there will be a high level bilateral meeting in Israel with the focus
on energy, tourism, economy and research.