NEWS

Athens expands regional alliance with ‘Philia’ (Friendship) Forum

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The Philia (Friendship) Forum that convened in Athens on Thursday is an unprecedented effort by Greece to expand its network of allies from the Mediterranean to the Gulf.

And, although the participants’ joint statement released after the meeting uses inclusive language to tout peace, security and stability in the wider region, it is implicitly aimed at those who do not seem to adhere to the common positions and values expressed – namely, Turkey.

“(W)e reiterated our common adherence to International Law, including the UN Charter, UN Security Council Resolutions and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to which we are all signatories. We stressed our strong commitment to fundamental principles enshrined therein, such as the respect of the sovereignty, sovereign rights, independence and territorial integrity of states, the peaceful resolution of differences and rejection of threats or use of force,” the statement says.

With the meeting, Cyprus, Egypt and Greece, three Mediterranean states which have found common ground over the demarcation of territorial waters and exclusive economic zones in the Eastern Mediterranean, reached out to the Gulf states of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to “exchange views on issues of common interest and concern, with the aim of further strengthening our cooperation and actively contributing to the consolidation of peace, stability and security in the wider region,” the statement noted.

The meeting was also joined by France, whose Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian participated via teleconference.

The ministers agreed to take joint initiatives on issues such as energy, innovation, the digital economy, civil protection and people-to-people contacts. “In the same vein, we also explored possibilities for further cooperation in the fields of science, agriculture, food security, academic education and training, interfaith dialogue, culture and sports,” they said. But they also discussed issues such as Syria, Libya and Yemen, the Middle East peace process and the pandemic.

In his message to the conference, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis underlined that “our initiative is open to all and is not aimed at anyone.” He later had a meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud.