Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Nassif Hitti, held talks on Wednesday with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dundas, followed by a ten-minute retreat.
After the meeting, Hitti and his counterpart held a joint press conference, where the former started by welcoming "the foreign minister of a neighboring and friendly country that enjoys historic relations with Lebanon."
"This visit reflects the good ties that exist between the two countries and the Greek and Lebanese peoples. We have a common history that brings us together, next to our Mediterranean and our many common traditions. The most important values that draw us together, though, are determination, love of life, love of individual initiative, and compulsion towards work and innovation. Phoenician and Greek boats have carried our people, our civilization and our culture to the most remote corners of the globe," Hitti said.
"Today, the dialogue between friends has focused on economic cooperation between our two countries, in light of the difficult conditions we are presently undergoing in Lebanon. We heard from our friend, the minister, about his country's experience in this context, and how it managed to face the difficult circumstances it went through. Perhaps this will be a useful lesson for us, especially since Greece has managed to recover," the minister added, pointing out that "discussions have dealt with the necessity of enhancing trade exchange between the two countries by encouraging Lebanese agricultural and industrial exports."
"Greece is a main country in the European Union, and this is another very important entrance towards the European Union; geographical proximity contributes a lot in this field."
"We also tackled the issue of strengthening the tourism sector, namely traditional and cultural tourism, and all kinds of productive tourism, which can bolster ties between the two countries in several fields. (...) Our main concern today is economic, and we will do what we can in Lebanon to rescue the productive sectors and maintain jobs," Hitti stressed.
He added: "We also broached the oil and gas sectors in the two countries as we must share expertise and knowledge to ensure the largest quantity is extracted at the lowest possible cost. Greece has preceded us and has thus gained a pioneering experience in this field from which we can largely benefit."
"The conversation also dealt with developments in the region; there is an agreement on respecting and activating the rules of international law and the principles of the United Nations and its relevant resolutions which should be the reference in settling any conflict or dispute in the region. As you know, Lebanon, Greece and Cyprus are preparing for a tripartite summit in late March, so it was only natural for us to discuss the agenda, review the issues and topics on it, and follow up on the preparations," the Lebanese Foreign Minister went on to say.
In turn, Greece's Dundas addressed Hitti by saying: "It gives me great pleasure to congratulate you today, and wish you success in your new tasks. The relationship between us is based on solid foundations, friendship and mutual respect; this was confirmed in the talks that we held today, where we agreed to find ways to sustain political, economic and cultural ties, be it on the bilateral or the tripartite level with Cyprus. This tripartite cooperation has borne fruit so far."
Emphasizing "Greece's constructive role in pushing Lebanon's relations with the European Union forward," he said "we have expressed our support for the agenda of reforms laid out by the government. We have exchanged views on the regional situation, and we underscore our support for political solutions under the United Nations umbrella, whether in Libya, Syria, or other countries of the world."
"I listened to the viewpoints of Lebanese officials on the situation in Syria, and we expressed our admiration for the great efforts made by Lebanon towards the displaced people. This [issue] is of great importance to both countries, as Greece is the gate to the continent of Europe. We also discussed the situation in Libya and the latest decision by the Foreign Affairs Council on Lebanon. We support the efforts of UN envoy Ghassan Salameh," the Greek minister added.
"Based on the Memorandum of Understanding between Ankara and Mr. Siraj, I reiterate our view: although this memorandum is null and void, being outside the framework of international law (...) it ignites civil war and constitutes an attempt to impose foreign powers on Libya. In addition to that, it gives the conflict an international character by violating the sovereign rights of Greece and thereby threatening peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean. I must say, after the meetings I held with Greek partners in the Arab League, I have the impression that Turkey's efforts to expand its influence over the areas that were previously part of the Ottoman Sultanate form a source of concern and are rejected by those parties," he concluded.