ATHENS – Risking further discord with the United States, Greece and Iran are moving toward improving relations politically and in trade, especially in energy.
The US and international community have sanctioned Iran, fearing it is trying to build a nuclear bomb that could be used against Israel, another Greek ally.
But the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA party of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has sidled up to Communist powers Russia and China, as well as talking to Venezuela, and irking the US by also backing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support of separatists in Ukraine.
Despite that – and after Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos was snubbed in Washington, D.C. – Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Zavad Zarif said the two countries will try to tighen links.
Zarif also met with Tsipras, who said Greece was determined to boost bilateral relations, while members of the delegation traveling with Zarif met with Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and other officials.
Zarif’s talks with Kotzias were held in an “extremely positive atmosphere,” Kathimerini said. During a joint press conference, they emphasized the strong historic ties binding the countries and friendly nature of bilateral relations.
The talks focused on energy, with Kotzias noting that the development of cooperation in the sector was “desirable.”
“Iran has a high quality and quantity of natural gas and especially oil and Greece is in a geographical position that constitutes an entry point to the European Union,” Kotzias said, adding that Greek shipowners controlled large fleets that could be used for the transport of oil and liquified natural gas.
Zarif said he was also interested in cooperating in the technology, tourism and agriculture sectors. He noted that both countries share a similar view on “peace and security and the fight against terrorism,” emphasizing in particular the need to crack down on ISIS.
It wasn’t reported whether there was any discussion of human rights violations in Iran, where women have been stoned to death.
Zarif, who is to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva on May 30 for talks regarding Iran’s nuclear program, said he was hopeful that a “sustainable” and “mutually respectful” deal can be struck with world powers in talks and warned against “excessive demands” that would obstruct efforts to reach an agreement.