19 September, 2008
A dynamic rapprochement and "overture" by Greece was attempted towards the countries of Central Asia here on Thursday, through bilateral contacts held by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on the sidelines of the European Union-Central Asia Forum on Security issues, which was organised for the first time in Paris at ministerial level by the French presidency.
"As regards 2009, Greece's relations with the countries of Central Asia will be an absolute priority. We must invest in our relations with countries that are energy producers and in which, indeed, we have a very big and very important ethnic Greek community, which constitutes the basis and the bridge for our cooperation with them," she told reporters.
Bakoyannis acknowledged that the relations in question had not been developed adequately until now and pointed out that "we had not worked enough until now. It is the Greek government's decision that 2009 will be the year for the promotion of these relations. They are countries for which I must say that from the moment they see you, they speak to you about Alexander the Great and about Greece's cultural influence on them."
The Forum's main issues were cooperation with the countries of Central Asia in the sectors of security and energy, as well as the handling of the problems of terrorism and drug trafficking.
Participating from Central Asia were the foreign ministers of the five countries invited, Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.
Bakoyannis stressed that "it was an opportunity because all were present around the table and so I had the opportunity of having consecutive meetings with my five counterparts from the countries of Central Asia, particularly with Kazakhstan which will hold the next presidency."
The foreign minister added that "it is our intention to activate from the very first moment of our presidency both the Troika and the Quintet, meaning all 'three' and all 'five' to enable us to have a basis for a balanced dialogue between Europe and Central Asia. In this way we shall be able to take the necessary initiatives for peace and stability in the region."
Bakoyannis will be holding a work meeting on Friday morning with her French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, during which, as she explained, a "substantive discussion will be taking place on many open issues," such as relations between Europe and Turkey, developments in Cyprus, the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and joint initiatives between Greece and France that will be brought before the UN General Assembly.
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