It gives me pleasure at the beginning to express gratitude to President Karlos Papoulias, the President of friendly Greece, for the hospitality of a country with deep roots in history. I also find it important to express pleasure for the talks we held which reflected a spirit of friendliness and understanding and an almost identical view over numerous bilateral, regional and international issues; which is not strange since it shows the reality of a long friendship between two peoples throughout history.
I have come here to represent a new Egypt; a country which has only a few day ago taken its first steps towards the establishment of a modern civilian state, fulfilling the demands of people in the region for a decent life. Egyptians have approved their new constitution; one which represents the hopes and aspirations of the Revolution of the 30 of June, 2013. Egypt is also set to complete the roadmap, which turns it into a new country, looking forward to a glorious future not divorced from its past; moving sure of step in its regional sphere in order to serve its national interests without sacrificing its identity; and extending bridges of cooperation with the world to achieve a balanced policy, which opens wide horizons to help achieve the demands and aspirations of the Egyptian Revolution.
My choice of Greece as the first non-Arab country to visit therefore reflects our interest in promoting relations between our two friendly countries. It also crowns the many contacts held between us following the June Revolution.
It is essential at this point to assert that vigorous relations between our two countries are based on solid grounds, particularly as Greece was, and remains still one of the countries that most understanding of the critical conditions Egypt is now going through and most appreciative of the requirements of the stage and of the nature of change in our society away from rigid slogans and stereotypes that might or might not be suitable to us. Egypt appreciates Greece's stance based on the non-interference in the affairs of other countries, and on accepting the will of the people and their aspiration to change.
During talks with Greek President Papoulias and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, we have discussed the many aspects of bilateral relations, expressing our mutual relief over the depth and diversity of such relations. We have agreed that there is a room for improving bilateral ties, and that we are bound with numerous agreements and contractual frameworks that allow us to do that. Our main focus in these talks was the economy, where we reviewed the size and structure of our trade exchange, which amounts to an annual sum of $1 billion and expressed our confidence in increasing it in future. Greek investments in Egypt are near $1 billion despite the legal problems facing Greek investors from time to time; problems which we are keen on solving. We have agreed of intensifying efforts and increasing contacts between our two sides in the next few months with a view to convening the joint committee for economic and technical cooperation in Cairo later in 2014.
What makes my visit especially significant is that it comes at a time when Greece has assumed the rotating presidency of the EU, from which we expect a great deal by way of cooperating to achieve our common interests. We also set store by the EU to press towards strengthening strategic ties with Egypt to help advance the partnership between the two sides. Greece can also play an important part in activating cooperation within the Middle East region and implementing common enterprises within the framework of the Union for the Mediterranean.
The foreign dimension has strongly been present in our talks especially in light of developments in our region. We have dealt with the Syrian issue, highlighting the importance of steering away from a military solution and opening the way to a political settlement by speeding up the convening of the Geneva 2 Conference and bringing it to a successful conclusion. This places a great responsibility on both sides to reach a breakthrough to fulfill the aspirations of the Syrian people and protect their unity. We have also discussed the Middle East Peace Process, welcomed US efforts in that regard and stressed the need for a general framework of a final solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict; this requires both sides to commit to the agreed terms of reference. We have further reviewed developments regarding the Egyptian Initiative for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East; the initiative we both believe would promote security and stability in the region. We have moreover underlined the importance of fighting terrorism and extremism both locally and regionally.
At the end, I cannot but express my gratitude to President Papoulias for the warm hospitality extended to me during my stay in Athens. I should express also confidence in the strength of our relations and our resolve to promote and develop them to serve the interests of our two friendly peoples.