Emirates and Greece continue to strengthen ties in the face of the threat from Turkey

Just at a time of conflict in the eastern Mediterranean caused by the expansionism of the Eurasian country
Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Emirates, with Nikos Dendias, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, in Athens

PHOTO/WAM  -   Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Emirates, with Nikos Dendias, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, in Athens

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was received in Athens by his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, in a further demonstration of the great rapprochement between the Arab country and the European nation in a current stage of disputes in the eastern Mediterranean generated by Turkey's belligerent stance.

For months the Eurasian country has been conducting an expansionist and aggressive policy in the Mediterranean area, which has led it to intervene in the wars in Libya and Syria (even using mercenaries from groups allegedly linked in the past to terrorist organisations such as Daesh and al-Qaeda) and, as the European Union and nations such as Greece and Cyprus have denounced, to violate the maritime borders of the Greek islands; it also carries out prospecting for hydrocarbons in the area that are classified as illegal. All this followed, above all, the pact signed at the end of last year by the Ottoman leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the prime minister of Libya's National Accord Government, Fayez Sarraj, whereby he assured Ottoman support for Sarraj's militias in the war against Marshal Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army and also distributed exclusive economic zones that clashed with the interests of the Greeks and Cypriots. 

The foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Greece have called for the establishment of a strategic partnership based on a solid foundation of friendship and mutual respect. Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan made several statements to this effect during a joint declaration after the meeting with Nikos Dendias.

"I would like to thank Nikos Dendias for our productive and important discussions on this day. Our meeting was an opportunity to exchange views on the most important aspects of our growing bilateral relationship and on regional and international issues of mutual interest. By holding these talks and visits on a regular basis our relationship grows even further," the Emirati diplomat said in the official statement, which was picked up by the official news agency WAM.

"UAE-Greece relations began in 1975, and since then the two nations have come a long way together, with the UAE seeking to grow these bilateral relations to be a model of stability and growth in the region. Today, the partnership between our two nations covers a broad spectrum of cooperation in all fields and areas, including the economy, politics, defence, culture, governance and food security," added the Arab country's top foreign official. "The United Arab Emirates and Greece devoted particular efforts to promoting and enhancing economic relations, resulting in an increasing level of trade between the two countries. By the end of 2019, the total volume of our non-oil bilateral trade had reached $450 million. We would like to further increase our bilateral trade volumes to a level that fully reflects the high potential and capacity of our strong partnership," added Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

"Our relations are not only being strengthened in the fields of economy and trade," said the Emirati foreign affairs officer, "but also through our people-to-people links. "In 2019, more than 24,000 Greek tourists visited the United Arab Emirates. The growing number of tourists travelling between our two countries is supported by a dynamic aviation sector, which included 14 weekly flights by our national airlines before the spread of COVID-19. We look forward to further collaboration on the COVID-19 challenge between the two countries and the entire international community in the coming months," he said.

Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan also referred to the important fight against terrorism: "In addition to our growing bilateral relations, the United Arab Emirates and Greece share a deep concern about the threat that terrorism and extremism pose to our world. We in the UAE believe that there should be commitment to fighting the current waves of terrorism and extremism. The United Arab Emirates plays a key role in combating extremism and terrorism by combating both its narrative and its operations. We look forward to working with partners around the world to address this global threat," he said. "The UAE and Greece also share a common interest in regional stability and a peaceful and cooperative international system. The UAE appreciates Greece's positive commitment to supporting regional stability and commends our close cooperation in addressing some of the region's most difficult problems. Both see the expansionist foreign policies of some neighbouring governments as a persistent source of instability in the region," stressed the UAE foreign minister. 

For his part, the Greek foreign minister praised the privileged relations between the two nations and their co-operation in various fields, including defence. He also commended the support provided by the UAE to his country to help mitigate the impact of the COVID-19; an area in which the Emirates stands out for its great international work in assisting numerous countries on practically every continent. 

The Greek foreign minister also praised the peace agreement recently signed by the United Arab Emirates and Israel and their role in ensuring stability and seeking peace in the Middle East. 

Together with this meeting, the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan himself reviewed options for improving bilateral relations on all fronts. They also discussed ways of speeding up co-operation in the areas of science and technology, food and water security, renewable energy and oil, and the two sides reiterated their countries' determination to establish a sound strategic partnership in all fields.

This new political approach at the highest level follows the recent extension of military collaboration between the Emirates and Greece, manifested by the recent visit of the chief of the emirate's general staff to the Greek island of Crete to witness joint military exercises by both nations. 

Thus, Lieutenant General Hamad Mohammed Thani al-Rumaithi, head of the general staff of the Emirates' armed forces, travelled this week to supervise the joint military exercises between the Emirates and the Greek air forces on the Cretan island. 

According to the official Emirates news agency WAM, the Emirati officer was received by General Konstantinos Floros, head of the General Staff of the Hellenic National Defence, and senior Emirati and Greek officials; with a view to attending military manoeuvres that may serve as a deterrent to Turkey's expansionism in the eastern Mediterranean.