On November 9, the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Cyprus, Nikos Kotzias and Ioannis Kasoulides, visited Lebanon at the invitation of the Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil, following the Conference on Stability and Security of Rhodes (8-9 September 2016). The visit was also an opportunity to congratulate General Michel Aoun on his election as President.
It was an occasion for Middle East Strategic Perspectives to ask Mr. Kotzias how Athens envisions cooperation at the regional level in the Eastern Mediterranean, and possible cooperation between Greece and Lebanon in the energy sector.
1. Greece is pursuing separate trilateral cooperation with various countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus and Greece seem to be a constant feature, with the third country in the ticket being either Egypt or Israel, and more recently Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon. Why is this trilateral approach preferred? How do you envision future cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean and how do you evaluate the outcome so far compared to the overall objectives.
Greece firmly believes that regional cooperation is the only path to the sustainable consolidation of peace and prosperity in the troubled zone of the Eastern Mediterranean. In light of the above, we consider that the first step in order to intensify regional dialogue and solidify synergies is the building of a nexus of trilateral cooperation configurations with key regional actors; in this case Greece, Cyprus and various other countries, such as Egypt and Jordan.
We stress the importance of our trilateral cooperation with Lebanon which puts an emphasis on the refugee crisis, terrorism and the peace process in the Middle East, while it gives the impetus for better communication, interaction and exchange of ideas.
These trilateral initiatives have proven so far their efficiency and versatility, since they have contributed considerably to the enhancement of collective understanding and the production of concerted responses regarding major political, security and economic challenges – including the Syrian and refugee crises- our region is faced with.
The global outcome of these trilateral setups has been very positive. We have succeeded in further strengthening the promotion of relations and inter-state networks in a number of sectors, including economy, energy, trade, tourism and environmental protection. In the near future, we expect to see even more substantial results under these forms of collaboration, which are not fostered to the detriment of anyone whatsoever.
2. Extensive seismic surveys show that the Lebanese offshore may hold a promising hydrocarbon potential. Lebanon is preparing to re-launch its first licensing round for offshore exploration. Do you see/encourage an active Greek participation, whether in exploration and production or at the services level?
We are keen to offer Lebanon our support in its effort to identify and explore its hydrocarbon potential. Greece, as a member of the European Union, plays an important role in contributing to Energy Security Strategy, by promoting the diversification of Europe’s Energy Resources, supplier countries and routes.
Firstly, as you may already know, Greece has already successfully completed both offshore and onshore licensing rounds. In this context, we encourage cooperation among the competent authorities during the tender procedure.
Secondly, Greece aspires to become an energy hub in the East Med area. Many projects, namely the East Med pipeline and EuroAsia Interconnector, are currently being closely examined at a European level and we welcome, and encourage, Lebanon’s participation in this field.
Thirdly, we strongly support the active participation of Greek companies, many of which have a very successful presence in various activities linked to the energy sector in the Eastern Mediterranean.