ATHENS (RFE/RL) — Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras praised his country’s “strong historical, cultural and spiritual bonds” with Armenia and called for their further strengthening after talks in Athens with the visiting President Serzh Sarkisian on Tuesday.
“The visit of the president of Armenia to Greece reflects the high level of relations between the two countries,” he told a joint news conference with Sarkisian. “Relations based on strong historical, cultural and spiritual bonds of friendship between our peoples. Relationships forged in very difficult times.”
In that regard, Tsipras spoke of Greeks’ and Armenians’ “history of suffering and persecution,” saying that both peoples were victims of genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks during World War One. They should now strive to make bilateral ties “not only a relationship with the past but also a relationship with a future,” he said.
Tsipras also reaffirmed Greece’s strong support forArmenia’s efforts to forge closer links with the European Union. “I expressed our support to the further development of cooperation between Armenia and the European Union, particularly in the economic field and in the area of mobility of citizens,” he said.
Sarkisian said the Greek premier specifically expressed readiness to assist in ongoing negotiations on a new political and economic treaty between Armenia and the EU.
“We were pleased to conclude that our approaches to bilateral, regional and international issues largely converge,” he said. “At the same time we agreed that we should do more to give new impetus to our cooperation on both bilateral and multilateral platforms.”
Sarkisian described Greek-Armenian trade as “the weakest link” in relations between the two counties. It stood at $17 million last year, according to Armenian government data.
In Tsipras’s words, the two leaders “focused on the financial sector” when they discussed ways of boosting bilateral commercial ties. He gave no details.
His talks with Sarkisian were followed by the signing of new plans of joint activities by the Greek and Armenian governments in the areas of healthcare, education and culture.
Sarkisian said that the two governments are also “continuing to expand” bilateral military cooperation. He thanked Athens for its military assistance to Yerevan. “In the last 20 years, more than 200 Armenian cadets and officers have been educated in Greece,” stressed the Armenian leader.
The Greek military has also provided assistance to an Armenian army brigade that contributes troops to NATO-led peacekeeping missions abroad.
Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos underlined Greek-Armenian military ties when he visited Yerevan in December. Kammenos and his Armenian counterpart Seyran Ohanian publicly accused Turkey of aiding Islamic State militants in Syria and condemned it for shooting down a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border.