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China-Greece Relations at a Period of Strategic Opportunities
---Interview with Chinese Ambassador Zou Xiaoli
2016-07-01
 

At the invitation of Premier Li Keqiang, Greek Prime Minister Tsipras is to visit China from July 2 to July 6. During the interview with Xinhua News Agency today, Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli said that the visit will be an important one against a profound background and that the two sides should seize this important opportunity to push bilateral relations further ahead.

Zou pointed out that there are four important backgrounds for the visit. First, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Greece. Second, COSCO is going to expand mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation with Greece at the Port of Piraeus. Third, the regional landscape where Greece is located is undergoing profound changes and adjustments. Fourth, the "Belt and Road" is extending steadily to Europe.

During the visit of Prime Minister Tsipras, the two sides will release a joint statement to reflect the outcomes of the visit. The two sides will hold the Second China-Greece Maritime Cooperation Forum. They will also sign a series of cooperation agreements on investment, finance, shipping, science and technology, culture, and tourism to build platforms for the strengthening of cooperation between the two sides.

Zou said that China and Greece established the comprehensive and strategic partnership in 2006, which conforms to the long-term and important interests of both countries and is assuming increasing regional and global significance. Over the past 10 years, the content of this relationship has been constantly enriched. We appreciate the important contribution of various sectors of both countries and we are confident that, under the concerted efforts of both sides, our friendly cooperation will be more fruitful than ever.

When talking about the COSCO Piraeus project, Zou pointed out that the project is a fine example of China-Greece cooperation, the significance of which has gone beyond economic cooperation and bilateral scope and has assumed great importance for promoting regional peace and development as well.

Zou said that Greece is at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa and its neighboring region has been hit by factors of instability such as war, refugees, and terrorism. This has enhanced the role of Greece as the anchor of stability and development in the East Mediterranean. Middle East countries also wish that Greece can continue to act as a bridge between them and the EU. Greece itself has been very active in its diplomacy and the debt crisis has not undermined its important role in foreign affairs.

Greece is becoming an important knot on the "Belt and Road" and the COSCO Piraeus project has made Greece a key link between the Maritime Silk Road and the Silk Road on land.

Zou said that China is ready to make joint efforts with Greece in the following areas: First, to continue to render mutual support to each other on issues of core interest; second, to use maritime cooperation as a dragonhead to lead to practical cooperation in various areas; third, to promote dialogues between different civilizations; and fourth, to enhance coordination and cooperation in the East Mediterranean and the Middle East. The four areas reflect the features of the comprehensive and strategic partnership between the two countries.

Zou pointed out that over the past 40-plus years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, Greece has rendered valuable support to China at crucial moments like the Beijing Olympic Games and the evacuation of Chinese citizens from overseas. At the beginning of 2015, Prime Minister Tsipras delivered an important speech on his government's China policy on a Chinese navy vessel visiting Greece, which was well received by the Chinese side. It is fair to say that Greece has all along been China's reliable partner within the EU.

Recent years have seen rapid development of maritime cooperation between the two countries. During the visit of Premier Li Keqiang to Greece in 2014, the two countries held the first China-Greece Maritime Cooperation Forum. In 2015, the year of China-Greece maritime cooperation was successfully held. Both events were unprecedented in China's foreign exchanges. The second China-Greece Maritime Cooperation Forum will be held during Prime Minister Tsipras' visit to China. Zou pointed out that Greece is an ideal partner for China to carry out international maritime cooperation, for Greece is not only the birth place of European maritime civilization, but also wields important influence in international shipping. The capacity of its commercial fleets accounts for nearly 20% of the world total. Over half of China's imported crude oil is transported by Greek commercial fleet. More importantly, Greece is very experienced and open in marine-related sectors, making China-Greece maritime cooperation at the forefront of China-Europe cooperation.

Zou said that Greece is the cradle of Western civilization, while China is an outstanding representative of Eastern civilization. We respect and admire each other's culture and have strong desire for further exchanges. The world is facing many problems and challenges, for which the lack of communication and understanding between different civilizations is an important factor. Greece enjoys unique advantage in facilitating dialogues among different civilizations. Major countries including China would like to see Greece continuing to be a bridge between the Eastern and Western civilizations. To step up cooperation between China and Greece in this area has global significance and value.

Zou pointed out that currently the East Mediterranean and Middle East still face some problems and conflicts. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China is ready to play a more constructive role in the region, promote dialogues between different religions and political forces, and solve conflicts in peaceful means. China regards Greece as its best partner, for Greece has similar views with China and enjoys long and comprehensive relations with countries in the region, which are valuable resources to solve conflicts between countries in the region. Greece is also ready to share these resources with China.

Zou said that Greece regards China as a strategic power that is rising peacefully and expects China to play a bigger role in the Mediterranean and in the world. Greece is also ready to be actively involved in the development of the "Belt and Road" Initiative, and has said repeatedly that it wishes to become a bridge between China and Europe and between China and the West.

Finally, Zou pointed out that in the past two years, China-Greece relations have withstood various tests and demonstrated a bright future. China-Greece relations are at an important period of strategic opportunities. The two sides should have a better understanding and grasp of these opportunities to bravely march forward for mutual benefit and win-win results. Ambassador Zou said that he is full of expectations, confidence and passion for the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Tsipras to China.

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