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Iran and Greece Bolstering Economic and Trade Partnership: A Chronology

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Peter Tase
Expert on Latin American, European and Paraguayan Studies

The diplomatic relations between Greece and Iran, are at excellent levels.  Both countries have established respective embassies in Athens and Tehran.

As a member of the European Union, the Greek government has actively supported an engaging dialogue with Iran in the areas of human rights, regional problems and fostering trade and cultural ties with Tehran.

Athens supports the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes alone, without bargaining its long-established position against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and supports the creation of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

In his November 3rd (2013) meeting in Tehran with Mr. Takht-e Ravanchi, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister; Mr. Parasekeh Dimitrius Violus, Director General of Political Affairs at the Greek foreign ministry, stated that: “Greece as a country with age-old relations with Iran is willing to enhance ties with Iran.” Both diplomats discussed how to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation, parliamentary and cultural partnership.

According to Mr. Ravanchi: “Iran as one of the suppliers of energy to Europe, especially in the area of oil and gas [supply], is ready to expand ties with Greece.”

During the last five years, high level official visits to Tehran as well as strengthening the economic cooperation with Iran have always been the cornerstone of the Greek Foreign Policy.    

On March 14, 2014, Greek Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Evangelos Venizelos embarked in a two-days official visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The following day, Mr. Venizelos met in Tehran with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. In their official meeting, the two chiefs of diplomacy discussed issues covering a wide range of bilateral and international topics. 

In the bilateral agenda was included the intensification of political dialogue between Iran and Greece, as well as economic and trade cooperation. Such cooperation was perceived within the framework of the international laws and harmony with the UN and EU resolutions.

In this context, Ministers Venizelos and Zarif discussed the potential areas in which their bilateral cooperation could be strengthened, including energy, transportation and shipping industry, mutually beneficial trade in agricultural products, food industry and pharmaceuticals.

The European Union has played a decisive role in the negotiations of reaching a comprehensive and definitive agreement on Iran’s Nuclear Program. Mr. Venizelos, in his capacity, as President of the EU Council of Ministers, also talked to Mr. Zarif about the level of cooperation between the European Union and the Islamic Republic of Iran. In this context, Mr. Venizelos expressed his agreement towards the accomplishments of the interim agreement of EU 3+3 process and noted that a solid and comprehensive agreement was one of the major priorities in EU’s regional security policy.

In their meeting, both ministers exchanged information on the current status of Greek and Turkish relations, mainly in regards to the situation in Cyprus. Another important topic was the issue of maritime zones, both countries have experienced common problems such as the International drug trade, organized crime, and human trafficking.

In relation to the current international politics; both diplomatic chiefs, discussed the current regional developments including the crisis of Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Egypt, Middle East and the region of North Africa. Following their conversations, the two Ministers held a joint press conference, after which the two delegations continued their talks in a working lunch.

Additionally, Mr. Venizelos was also received by the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, and meet with the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Ali Larijani.

On Sunday, March 16, Mr. Venizelos met with the country’s former president and current chairman of the Council of Expediency Discernment of Iran, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and with the Secretary General of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani.  In this visit, the Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos was accompanied by Greece’s ambassador to Tehran and Benham Behrouz, Iranian Ambassador to Athens.

On Thursday, January 23rd, 2014, Mr. Evangelos Venizelos issued the following statement welcoming the initiation of the implementation of the Joint Action Plan on Iran’s Nuclear Program.

“The initiation of the Joint Action Plan on Iran’s Nuclear Program is the first tangible result of the Geneva Agreement of this past November between the EU 3+3 and Tehran, and constitutes a positive and hopeful development. A sincere and substantial dialogue between the two sides has proven a necessary prerequisite for the settlement of this critical international security issue. [Greece] is convinced that the constructive spirit and pragmatism that Iran is showing will continue and that the whole endeavor will be handled with diligence, consistency and good faith, so that we can reach a mutually acceptable, comprehensive and the best solution.”

In September 23rd, 2013, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos had a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in New York. This meeting took place within the framework of the 68th UN General Assembly Ministerial Week. In this occasion both ministers shared the great cultural and historical ties between both countries, while fostering the interfaith dialogue globally. Both governments agreed to further develop their political dialogue and discussed the situation in Syria, regional security issues as well as bilateral commercial ties.

Iranian chief diplomat, Javad Zarif, made reference to the Syrian Chemical weapons and the current Civil War; he added that chemical weapons should be banned universally, as it is restricted by international conventions. Minister Venizelos stated that Greece has always respected the framework of International law, UN resolutions, and is very active in the European Union. In January, Athens assumed the EU Presidency and will lead the EU in the first six months of 2014. Greece wants to play a constructive role to promote the European Union’s dialogue with Iran, in order to reach a full normalization of EU-Iran relations and cultivate “a spirit of rapprochement and cooperation.”

In January 28th, 2009, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Miltiadis Varvitsiotis welcomed in Athens with Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for European Affairs Mr. Mehdi Safari. During their discussion both diplomats touched upon the bilateral economic cooperation as well as how to further strengthen trade and economic relations. 

Mr. Varvitsiotis discussed his country’s challenges and trade deficit due to Athens’ energy dependence and expressed his government’s desire to increase the level of exports to the Iranian markets.

On the other hand, Mr. Mehdi Safari briefed his counterpart on the economic developments of Tehran, business opportunities and incentives provided by the Iranian government to foreign investors who are interested in doing business in Iran, as well as on Iran’s economic cooperation with other European countries. Mr. Safari emphasized a number of areas in bilateral trade cooperation that could further be strengthened.

The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister discussed the possibilities for joint investment programs in the region of the Caucasus and Asia.

Subsequently, Mr. Varvitsiotis, joined by Greek business leaders, hosted a working lunch to honor the Iranian delegation. In mid 2009, a delegation of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry visited Athens. Iranian business leaders have continuously helped bolster the commercial relations between Athens and Tehran.

In December 8th, 2008, Mr. Theodoros Skylakakis, Secretary General for International Economic Relations and Development Cooperation, in the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, joined by a delegation of business leaders and officials from the Ministry of Development, Trade and Fisheries, and the Aluminum Association of Greece, completed their two-days visit to Iran. Mr. Skylakakis met with high ranking members of the Iranian government, such as Mr. Talaei, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs, officials in the Ministry of Petroleum, the Iranian Privatization Organization, the Iranian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization.

Both parties reached a conclusion that there is a need to further promote and deepen bilateral economic relations by increasing the cooperation of respective business communities. In this meeting, the Greek delegation agreed to host, in the coming months, an Iranian business delegation to Athens, and explore the creation of a Joint Greek-Iranian Business Council. At this time both governments began the negotiations of maritime cooperation agreement. This document was signed during the visit of Iranian government and business community to Athens.

In June 5th, 2008, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, Petros Doukas, welcomed to Athens, the Iranian Trade Minister, Mr. Μehdi Ghazanfari. In this meeting, they confirmed the excellent relations of the two countries and discussed the possibility to strengthen bilateral cooperation in economy and trade.  In this occasion, Mr. Ghazanfari gave a presentation on Iran’s privatization program and invited the Greek Business sector to explore the investment potential that his country has to offer.

In January 2008, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Ali Bagheri, visited Greece.  The Iranian diplomat gave a lengthy presentation on Iran’s friendly environment to foreign business investments as well as on the recent developments on the bilateral economic cooperation.

In July 14, 2006, Mr. Y. Valinakis, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Greece had a meeting with the Iranian foreign minister Mr. Manouchehr Mottaki. After their discussions Mr. Valinakis made the following statements:

Today, I had the opportunity, to meet with the Foreign Minister of Iran Mr. Manouchehr Mottaki, with whom we discussed a series of issues, our bilateral relations, Iran-EU relations, regional issues and of course the crisis in the Middle East.  Greece as a member of the EU and of the UN Security Council is interested and expects the proposal package submitted in June, to be accepted by Iran, in order to begin negotiations. As far as the perspective of [Greece and Iran] bilateral relations we discussed how to develop them further especially in the economic and trade sectors.”

Both diplomats discussed the latest developments in the Middle East. The official position of Greece is that its vicious cycle of violence should end. Violence cannot solve current problems but it deteriorates the situation even further. As always, the Greek government continues to be in close communication with top officials in Tehran. Athens’ priority has been the strengthening of relations with the Iranian government; cooperation in major sectors is expected to improve and official visits by top level officials in respective countries are expected to continue.  Bilateral dialogue will nurture even more the economic cooperation, bolster commercial ties and improve mutual education and cultural projects.

*Photo Credit: TREND, Press TV