The Greek Press Today
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21 January, 2006
Greece's Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday described his visit to Beijing as a "landmark in Greek-Chinese relations", after a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, which wound up his series of contacts in the Chinese capital.
"You are an old friend of China, and place great importance on the development of bilateral relations. You see Chinese growth as an opportunity for Greece," Hu greeted Karamanlis upon arrival for their meeting, while the Greek prime minister responded that although the two countries differed greatly in size and population, their long histories and ancient civilizations were a common element.
Hu also lauded the outcome of Karamanlis' meeting on Thursday with Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, during which the two premiers signed a Joint Declaration calling for the establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Relationship between the two countries.
Karamanlis, accompanied by foreign minister Petros Molyviatis, minister of state and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, deputy foreign minister Evripides Stylianidis, and a large business delegation, arrived in Beijing on Thursday on a three-day official visit considered important from both a political and economic viewpoint. He met later with premier of China's state council Wen Jiabao, with whom he reviewed the course of bilateral relations, after which they signed the Joint Declaration on establishing a Greece-China Comprehensive Strategic Relationship, as well as several other memoranda in the economic and business sector.
After his talks with the Chinese President, Karamanlis said "we ascertained that the present excellent relations between our two countries are based on a strong foundation, which we should utilize, and on mutual deep respect for the history and civilization of the two peoples".
He said that they reviewed bilateral relations, and noted the "prospects for further strengthening of our cooperation at all levels, and chiefly in the sectors of business, commerce, merchant shipping and tourism".
Turning to political matters, Karamanlis stressed that the two countries were working closely in the UN Security Council, adding that they had identity of views on many issues.
Regarding the Cyprus issue, Karamanlis expressed appreciation for the Chinese President's stance.
Karamanlis further reiterated the Greek positions on matters of concern to China.
"Regarding the issue of Taiwan, I reaffirmed our firm position in favor of the one-China principle and our antithesis to the independence of Taiwan," he said.
On the question of lifting the EU arms embargo on China (which was imposed after the 1989 massacre of student activists in Tienanmen Square), Karamanlis expressed the Greek government's positive view, but noted that the embargo was slated to be lifted when the work on specific elements of the code of conduct (a strengthened code of conduct on all EU arms sales that would replace the ban) was completed.
Karamanlis further endorsed a Chinese request that the EU extend "market economy" status to China, adding that he had expressed his understanding, but had also stressed that "for this purpose, under EU legislation, required is the fulfillment of certain technical matters and a relevant proposal of the European Commission".
He said that the Greek government supported the relevant dialogue and would actively contribute to the prospect of granting China "free market" status as early as possible.
According to diplomatic sources, Hu placed particular emphasis on maritime issues during his talks with Karamanlis, while with respect to tourism matters, he told the Greek premier that he encourages Chinese to travel to Greece.
Karamanlis also referred to Greek agricultural products, particularly olive oil, as well as the prospects for strengthening bilateral relations in the cultural sector as well, taking advantage of the organization of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
In addition to promoting Greek agricultural products -- such as olive oil -- on the vast Chinese market and cooperation in the sector of construction and know-how, the Greek government is also interested in attracting Chinese investments to Greece, as the country is strategically placed to serve as a springboard for Chinese entrepreneurs to Europe and the wider Balkan region.
In his talks with Wen on Thursday, Karamanlis also discussed cooperation in the shipping sector, tourism and further boosting cooperation linked to China's preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, while a Memorandum was signed for the organization of a "Cultural Year of Greece" in China in 2008.
Karamanlis also met Thursday met with the president of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Organizing Committee (BOCOG) Liu Qi, who is also secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Beijing Municipal Committee, a member of the CPC Central Committee Politburo and former mayor of Bejing (1999-2002).
The Greek prime minister was slated to leave later in the day for Shanghai, where he would address a Chinese-Greek business conference on Saturday.
Mr. Karamanlis, on Friday toured the Great Wall of China, accompanied by his wife Natassa.
Karamanlis was given a tour of the historical monument, and wrote in the Visitors' Book: It is moving for me to return, after 27 years, to one of the most impressive monuments built by man".
The Greek premier later met with the president of the COSCO shipping company and the presidents of two ports, in the context of the Joint Declaration for establishing a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation between the two countries, which he signed in Beijing on Thursday with Chinese premier Wen Jiabao.
One of the targets of reinforced Greek-Chinese relations is to render the major Greek ports into transit centers for Chinese products destined for the Balkans and Europe.
Karamanlis also visited the Forbidden City, before being received by Chinese President Hu Jintao. He was also scheduled to meet with the chairman of the Chinese parliamentary committees.
Source: Athens News Agency