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Speech by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, at the opening ceremony of the conference “John Capodistrias and Modern Russian-Greek Relations”, Athens, 30 October 2013

1-11-2013, 20:34

Mr Deputy Prime Minister,


Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to add my voice to express my warmest greetings to the participants and guests of the conference dedicated to 185 years of accession to office by the first Greek President and the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries.

Russia and Greece are united by old traditions of friendship and cooperation. The closeness and mutual attraction between our people have a deep rooted world view, and are based on joint spirituality and similar cultural and civilisational traits. By and large, this has predetermined the mutual entanglement of the historical fates of people from these two countries, which are certainly reflected in personal biographies.

Many Greeks served the Russian state, including in diplomacy, and found their second homeland in our country. In general, about 150 Russian diplomats with Greek origins were ranked ambassadors or emissaries. The fate of John Capodistrias is the most vivid and renowned example: in the key position of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs he governed the work of the Russian Foreign Ministry for several years. Later, he became a founder and the first president of the modern Greek state.

John Capodistrias was a remarkable person and statesman, and was renowned for his outstanding political and diplomatic abilities and his high morals. He was far ahead of his time, already thinking in terms of a unified Europe, providing Russia with its rightful place in that scheme. He maintained the need for commitment to legal foundations in international relations, and stood up against unilateral interference of the “larger powers” into the internal affairs of other countries. Trying to ensure stability, John Capodistrias proposed the idea of creating an organisation, which, to a certain extent, anticipated the creation of the United Nations. Attempting to balance the interests of European politicians on the basis of humanistic ideals, he made a great contribution to the solution of the problems faced by European people, and was one of the architects of the peaceful order on the continent, which remained in place for several decades.

Europe has experienced many complicated times since then;it was split for a long time as a result of the bloc confrontation of the “cold war” epoch. However, today, when a new polycentric, international architecture is being formed, which is characterised by multiple growth centres and development models, the combination of our efforts, our partner interaction in the interests of solving the tasks we all share, the search for answers to global challenges, is in demand as never before. We should not allow new dividing lines to be reinforcedwithin the European continent – be that in the area of security, freedom of movement, the economy or any other area. In implementing these efforts, we should not forget about those talented diplomats and politicians (John Capodistrias was one of them), who have always aspired to achieve such organisation of life on the continent.

In 1828, despite significant differences of opinions and assessments between the leading power states and strong pressure, Russia recognised Greece as an independent sovereign state. On the 18 October in the Poros Island, a representative from Russia submitted a letter of credence to John Capodistrias, thus laying the foundations for official relations between Russia and Greece.

Russia’s support (I wish to especially highlight this) had a principled and truly friendly nature. Our country has always sincerely wished to see Greece as an independent, strong, flourishing and stable country. Russia’s national interests have always matched and still match those of Greece.

The role of our country in the acquisition of a national identity by Greece is generally acknowledged. The origins of sovereignty and independence of modern Greece are directly connected with Russia’s solidarity and practical help. At the same time, the Russian diplomacy supported John Capodistrias and his advocates in their plans to introduce a system of election of the heads of state and the creation of popular representation bodies.

Greece is a verified and reliable friend of Russia. Our opinions on key issues on the international agenda are close or match. We share the opinion that we need to unconditionally respect the generally accepted norms and principles of international law, and solve regional and global problems through a mutually respectful and constructive dialogue. We value the consistent policy of Greece to build peace, stability and security in the European continent, and develop diversified cooperation between Russia and the European Union.

The further building-up of our political dialogue, the extension of our interaction in the trade and economic areas, its spread to new, prospective areas of interest, correspond to the joint interests of our countries.

Good relations between Russia and Greece are our joint achievement, a firm foundation for further cooperation. I am convinced that our partnership should not depend on fluctuations in the international political climate. The objective of our two countries is to save and multiply our rich historical heritage. The decision of the heads of the two countries to announce 2016 as the Year of Russia in Greece and the Year of Greece in Russia, should contribute to this. We will sign a relevant joint statement with Mr Evangelos Venizelos today.

This forum is a vivid confirmation of our joint aspirations to further develop various ties. I would like to thank its initiators and organisers, in particular the Centre of Russian National Glory, the Andrey Pervozvanny Fund, and to wish its participants fruitful work and all the best.



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