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04 June, 2002
Prime Minister Costas Simitis, currently in the People's Republic of China for a six-day official visit, was received by Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Monday for a meeting that lasted half an hour.
Welcoming the Greek premier, whom he had met during a visit to Athens two years earlier, Zemin noted that this was the first visit by a Greek prime minister to China since that of Andreas Papandreou in 1986, 16 years earlier.
In his reply to Zemin, Simitis noted the radical changes that had taken place in the world since their last meeting two years ago, particularly since the September 11 terror attacks against the United States and the launch of the international campaign against terrorism. As an example he cited relations between NATO and the European Union, as well as the NATO-Russia accord.
There followed an official reception ceremony for Simitis in Beijing's historic Tien An Men Square, also attended by Chinese State Council Premier Zhu Rongji.
Simitis and Rongji had a brief meeting in the presence of TV crews and reporters afterward, during which Rongji noted that the Greek premier's visit coincided with the 30th anniversary since the two countries re-established diplomatic relations.
The Greek premier pointed to China's rich cultural heritage and traditions and said that these and the progress in achieving greater economic cooperation between the two countries could act as a bridge between the Greek and Chinese peoples.
Talks continued between the delegations of the two sides without reporters present, with the participation of Greek ministers and government officials accompanying Simitis.
These included Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos, and Deputy Development Minister Dimitris Georgakopoulos.
The meeting culminated in the signature of an agreement for the avoidance of double taxation, signed for Greece by Loverdos, and two protocols for bilateral cooperation in agricultural issues.
The first concerned the promotion of olive oil exports from Greece to China and the second concerned issues related to forestry policy.
Earlier on Monday, Simitis and the Greek delegation also took the opportunity to do some sightseeing, visiting a section of the Great Wall of China and the tombs of the Ming Dynasty.
Simitis' arrived in Beijing on Sunday at the head of a large delegations of government officials and entrepreneurs.
Apart from the agreements signed on Monday, the two sides are expected to sign a variety of bilateral agreements relating to Greece's EU presidency in the first half of 2003, the Athens Olympics in 2004 and the subsequent Beijing Games in 2008. Among the most noteworthy is an agreement classifying Greece as a "preferred destination" for Chinese tourists and a memorandum of understanding in the defense industry sector.
On Tuesday, Simitis will address a joint forum of Chinese and Greek entrepreneurs, before meeting with Li Peng, the chairman of the standing committee of the 9th National People's Congress (NPC).
On Wednesday, he will visit the city of Xian before touring Shanghai on Thursday.
Source: Athens News Agency