Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias inaugurated a new era for Greek-Libyan relations as he vowed Greece “is back” in Libya during his official visit to the north African country on Monday. While there, he met with officials of the provisional Libyan government as well as with representatives of the Greek community.
Speaking at the Greek Community Center in Benghazi, where he participated in the opening of the Greek consulate, Dendias gave his country’s promise of support.
“What I can promise to the society of Benghazi is that Greece is coming back. Coming back to help as much as we can. With our people, with our membership of the European Union, and we wish to retain our friendship with Libya and help Libya go forward and become a prosperous and stable country,” he stated.
Foreign Minister Dendias had earlier noted while speaking to Libyan officials that many of the members of the Greek community of Benghazi and Libya in general have remained there during the years of the crisis, and are now prepared to help with the country’s reconstruction.
“And there is also the presence of Greek enterprises, which have also stayed here and are operating here in Libya and in Benghazi, and they are also prepared, with their knowledge of the region, to assist with the reconstruction of the friendly country of Libya,” he concluded.
Foreign Forces Withdrawal and Greek-Libyan Agreements
Following up from the issues already discussed during the visit of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Libya in early April, FM Dendias also brought up the issue of maritime delineation, condemning the memorandum signed between Turkey and the previous Libyan government.
“Greece has always argued that the solution to the Libya problem must come with the immediate withdrawal of all foreign military forces and foreign mercenaries from the territory of Libya.
“This must happen immediately, and the Libyan people must be responsible for the country’s future,” he stressed in his statement following the meeting with Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Atiya Abdul Hafeez Al-Qatrani.
He added that Greece is at Libya’s disposal for the two countries to reach a Greek-Libyan agreement on their maritime zones, as they had attempted to do a decade ago.
“We came very close to reaching such an agreement in 2010. Only a very few details remained to be worked out to complete that agreement. And of course, we are here to activate the whole framework of agreements with Libya and to conclude new agreements, in order to assist in any way we can with the country’s reconstruction,” Dendias affirmed.
Fresh Start for Greek-Libyan relations
The visit of the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, earlier in April, was the first step toward a re-approaching of the two countries.
Athens is fiercely opposed to the deal between Ankara and Tripoli, which claims much of the Mediterranean for energy exploration and as an Exclusive Economic Zone, conflicting with international law and the claims by Greece, Cyprus and Egypt.
Stressing the necessity of the annulment of Libya’s internationally condemned 2019 maritime zones agreement with Turkey and the need for immediate and complete withdrawal of foreign troops from the country, Mitsotakis had suggested that “it is time we leave behind us everything that tried our relations in the past.”
Greek-Libyan relations had been on rocky ground as Greece’s embassy in Tripoli remained closed since July of 2014, when a Greek Navy frigate and two Greek other vessels helped to evacuate nearly 200 Greeks and other foreigners as the capital descended into chaos and militia violence.