Greek minister says evacuation aid to China strengthens bilateral relations

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, February 25, 2011
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Greek's assistance to the evacuation of Chinese nationals in Libya has strengthened the long-standing friendship between the two countries and helped the bilateral relationship, a Greek minister said in Shanghai Friday.

Greek Minister of Maritime Affairs, Islands and Fisheries Ionannis Diamantidis, who participated in the assistance operation, said it was an "unforgettable experience" and "special achievement" during his visit to China.

In one of its largest-ever withdrawal efforts of nationals from abroad, China has been working hard to evacuate its tens of thousands of nationals from Libya after the country was thrown into chaos by anti-government protests since days ago.

Some 12,000 Chinese nationals have been evacuated from the north African country to nearby countries, like Greece and Egypt, by air, sea and land routes, involving chartered planes, hired ocean liners and coaches, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said early Friday.

Seven ships had departed from Greece for Libya to help in the evacuation, Diamantidis said.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou demanded full assistance of the country's ministries once Greece got the notification from the Chinese government, Diamantidis said.

"I contacted ship companies. Despite the possible danger and uncertainties, these companies responded positively," Diamantidis said. "This shows the solid Greece-China friendship and the strength of the Greek maritime transportation sector."

"Enhancing cooperation in maritime transportation is one of the main topics on the agenda during my stay in China," Diamantidis said.

According to the minister, more than 10,000 Chinese nationals in Libya are scheduled to take ships sent by Greece to return home via Crete.

His meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang Wednesday, which was scheduled to last half hour, was extended by another half hour due to discussions on the evacuation of Chinese from Libya, he said.

During his visit to China, the minister signed an action plan about cooperation on maritime transportation, expanding the cooperation to business and academic sectors.

Greece and China also agreed to increase the special fund on China-Greece shipping cooperation from the initial 5 billion U.S. dollars to 8-10 billion dollars and help Greek shipowners offer chartering business to Chinese enterprises.

Greece also pledged to enhance cooperation with the Shanghai Stock Exchange so that Greece maritime transportation companies could be listed on its international board in the future.

"Premier Wen Jiabao paid a visit to Greece last October and encouraged us to overcome the international financial crisis. It is a fact that the Greece-China cooperation is not only a way to promote economic development, but also an example of countering challenges at different phases," Diamantidis said.

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