RAMALLAH, February 1, 2013 (WAFA) – The Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem, Sotirios Athanssiou, told WAFA on Friday that a solution to the Palestinian problem is an essential element to achieve peace and stability in Middle East.
In an exclusive interview with Palestinian News and Information Agency “WAFA” in Ramallah, Athanssiou said: “There is no time to waste!” All parties have to realize that the continuation of the current deadlock jeopardizes the aspiration of the peoples for peace and development, as well as the stability in the Middle East.
Hereby is the full Interview:
- Traditionally Greece has had excellent relations with the Palestinians to the point the two were allies. This, however, have changed over the years and warm relations have sort of cooled off. How do you describe today’s relations?
Allow me to disagree with your assumption that the warm relations between us have “sort of cooled off” on the opposite! not only there is no a single piece of evidence indicating such a “cooling off” but most recently Greece’s commitment to the legitimate right of Palestinian people for statehood was reconfirmed with our vote in the un general assembly, in favor Palestine’s upgraded status as a non member state.
Greece has traditionally had excellent relations with the Palestinian people. These strong ties of solidarity and friendship linking our two peoples are well known and remain indissoluble. Our relations based on solid grounds and mutual respect of the rights of both our peoples in defending freedom, democracy and dignity. Allow me to remind you that during the most difficult times of the Palestinian cause, Greece was one of the few countries that supported Palestinians and the late leader Yasser Arafat. The level of excellent relations between our two peoples and governments continues to be high and warm. May I stress that Greece in all international fora supports the rights of the Palestinian people without any pre-conditions, without any compensation. On the Palestine question, Greece’s position is crystal-clear: two-state solution, borders along the 1967 lines, with mutual agreed swap of territories, east Jerusalem as capital of the Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security.
- The European Union said it is ready to propose a new initiative to revive the stalled Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. Do you think Europe should get more involved politically in the Middle East or leave that role to the Americans?
The Palestinian question is always high on the agenda of the EU. We strongly believe that a fair solution has to be found the soonest possible through negotiations. Our efforts are concentrated in reviving the meaningful and result-oriented peace process which will satisfactorily address the legitimate quests of the two peoples: a viable and sovereign Palestinian state and a secure Israel. In achieving this goal, all international players have a role and the EU in close cooperation with the USA is a crucial partner. At this stage, we are reflecting the best ways to go forward. A solution to the Palestinian problem is an essential element so that peace and stability is achieved in this sensitive area. Greece, as a member of the EU has spared no effort to reach this goal for the benefit of the peoples of the area, for the benefit of establishing peace and prosperity.
- Greece is currently facing serious economic problems. Does that affect its chances to provide financial assistance in one form or another to the Palestinian people?
Since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, Greece has contributed significantly to its budget and has launched several projects in the Palestinian territories. Just recently, we inaugurated a health center and a school in the Gaza Strip financed by the Greek government. It is true that Greece is facing serious financial problem, as many countries in Europe and all over the world. This reality imposes new approach in financing the deficit of the budget of the PA. However, our solidarity with Palestinian people remains unwavering and we are doing the maximum possible in order to assist the PA to meet the needs of the people. My country is working hard to overcome the existing difficult situation and there are already signs of recovery. The efforts and sacrifices of the Greek people will lead to successful results. We will continue our efforts with optimism and dignity.
- The peace process has faced several setbacks in recent times. Do you see any chance to re-launch a credible and workable peace process that would lead to a final just and comprehensive settlement?
This is our goal! We have to be optimist without ignoring the reality on the ground. We are convinced that the ongoing changes across the Arab world make the need for progress in the Middle East peace process all the more urgent. There is no time to waste. All parties have to realize that the continuation of the existing stalemate jeopardizes the aspiration of the peoples for peace and development as well as the stability in the wider area of the Middle East.
- The Palestinians say they are ready to resume direct negotiations with Israel once it stops settlement activities and accepts the two-state solution. Do you agree and would Greece be ready to pressure Israel to stop settlements and accept the two-state solution even it would take supporting a vote at the UN Security Council against it?
The European Union has stressed in several occasions that settlements are illegal under international law and that it will not recognize any change to the pre- 1967 borders including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties. The recent developments, namely the acceleration of settlement construction including E1 area, the ongoing evections and house demolitions in East Jerusalem, the expansion of Givat Hamatos and Har Homa and the prevention of peaceful Palestinian cultural, economic, social or political activities threaten to make the two-state solution impossible. Greece, as member of EU fully supports and has actively contributed in drafting the aforesaid clear positions. Concerning a vote at the UN Security Council, let me remind you that Greece is not currently member of the Security Council and therefore it doesn’t have a right to vote. In any case, our unwavering stance in all international fora and in all our bilateral contacts is guided by our main goal, i.e. to promote the vision of an independent, democratic and sovereign state of Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace and security.
Source: WAFA News