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INTERVIEW: Relations between Greece and Saudi Arabia are “more than excellent”, says Greek Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis

RIYADH: The visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a great honor for Greece which will strengthen an already “excellent” bilateral relationship, Greek Development and Investment Minister Adonis Georgiadis told Arab News.

“We are deeply honored that HRH Mohammed bin Salman has decided to travel to Greece for his first trip to an EU country since 2018,” he said ahead of the crown prince’s arrival in Athens on Tuesday.

The visit aims to strengthen the already strong ties between the two countries, which span politics, economy, trade, investment, defence, security, culture and tourism.

“This (visit) is very important for Greece and very important for our relationship because we honor and admire his leadership, his vision for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the way the Kingdom is moving towards the new era of humanity in renewable energies, and new technologies,” said Georgiadis.

“I really believe that His Highness is a strong leader, and his decision to be here, I must repeat, is very, very important for us. The level of relations between Greece and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is more than “Excellent. And what we want to achieve is that the high level of our relations in the field of defense and politics in general is (imitated) on the economic level.

Speaking to Arab News via Zoom from Athens, Georgiadis said he was confident that Greek companies and investors would play a leading role in the development of NEOM – Saudi Arabia’s new smart city taking shape on the Red Sea coast and one of many giga-projects launched under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 social reform and economic diversification program.

“This is not just an economic growth project. It is a project about the new era of humanity on planet Earth, with sustainable growth, respect for the environment and the use of high technology to improve the standard of living and the good -being humans,” Georgiadis said.

“So I’m sure a lot of Greek companies would be interested in participating in and being part of this huge NEOM project.”

Underlining the increasingly close diplomatic, security and commercial ties between the two nations, Georgiadis confirmed that several new memorandums of understanding would be signed by the Crown Prince and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during a special ceremony at the museum of the Acropolis in Athens.

Opened to the public in 2009, the world-renowned Archaeological Museum houses Bronze Age, Roman and Byzantine artifacts unearthed at the site of the Acropolis, which is the country’s most prized antiquity and national monument.

Hosting the signing ceremony in this location will be symbolic.

“This has never happened before,” Georgiadis told Arab News. “We have never signed a Memorandum of Understanding with any other country in the world in the Acropolis Museum. And this is just a (message) from our Prime Minister to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to show how we think you are something very special to us.

Georgiadis will sign memorandums of understanding on investment and trade. “We will also have one in the field of defence, the field of high technology and the maritime sector. And then, of course, a very important memorandum of understanding for culture and cultural exchanges. (We) will have a very beautiful ceremony in our Acropolis.

In 2020, Greek exports to Saudi Arabia were valued at $339.04 million, while its imports from the Kingdom were worth $620.57 million, according to the UN Comtrade database. on international trade.

To boost bilateral investment, the Council of Saudi Chambers signed a memorandum of understanding last September to establish the Saudi-Greek Business Council.

“I am more than happy that the Saudi-Greek Business Council has been established,” Georgiadis said. “I am very honored that there are two very important people from Greece and the Kingdom, the leaders of this organization, from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ms. Lubna Olayan.”

Along with Greek entrepreneur and investor Achilleas Konstantakopoulos, Al-Olayan is the co-chairman of the Saudi-Greek Business Council.

Georgiadis added: “The Olayan family is a true friend of our country. They have been investing in Greece since the 1970s. They have stayed with Greece through all of our difficult times. We recognize this family, true friends and very important investors. And I’m proud and honored that they met me and worked with me.

“I think the reality that such important people have decided to be the leaders of the organization shows the level of commitment and the ambition that we have to follow all these projects and to establish a real friendship and cooperation between our two great countries.”

Georgiadis said he was confident that many more deals and partnerships would soon be announced, “from renewable energy to agriculture, food security and high technology”, and that there was “very high potential in the tourism industry and maritime transport”.

Last December, the two nations signed a maritime transport cooperation agreement to develop commercial maritime navigation, increase commercial vessel traffic and encourage trade.

In March, Saudi Arabia and Greece signed a memorandum of understanding paving the way for innovations in renewable energy, including green and blue hydrogen, and the development of a fiber optic cable network that will connect data from Southeast Asia to Central Europe.

“The cable, where they get the connection, Greece and Europe with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia via Egypt, is a very important project,” Georgiadis said.

“You see, Greece and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia share a unique location for their region – Greece as the entry point to the EU and based in the Mediterranean and Saudi Arabia as the best location that can unite the world Arabic and the Middle East with the Far East and Asia.

“So it’s very natural that this, both as good locations, through the use of high technology, can join forces for the good of humanity and for the global economy and their own brand. “

The Saudi-Greek Investment Forum, held in the Kingdom on March 13, showcased investment opportunities in both countries and resulted in hundreds of bilateral business meetings.

Georgiadis said he had high expectations for Saudi-Greek relations following the visit of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and expected many more trade deals to follow.

“During our last visit to Riyadh, there were more than 200 B2B meetings between Greek private companies and Saudi companies. They were followed by (another) batch in Athens,” he said.

“So, you know, the results (of these) are going to come out in 24 hours.”