Stronger Yemeni-Greek Ties: Appointment of First Greek Ambassador to Yemen [Archives:1998/19/Law & Diplomacy]
Mr. Alexander Philon, Ambassador and Secretary General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Greece, has just concluded a visit to Yemen. Accompanied by Mr. Antonios Nicolaidis, Director of the Middle East Section, the Greek official is here to oversee the appointment of Greek’s first ambassador to Yemen. Mr. George Nicolaidis, Greek Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will serve as a non-resident ambassador to Yemen. He will present his credentials to President Ali Abdullah Saleh in a few days.
Yemen Times met Mr. Philon. Excerpts of the interview:
Q: What is the purpose of your visit to Yemen?
A: I have brought a letter to the Foreign Minister of Yemen in order to start discussions about bilateral relations. Our aim is to improve ties by exchanging views. There are many subjects on which we agree.
I also would like to discuss regional issues. I would like to inform the Yemeni government of our views on important regional issues.
Greece is a member of the European Union, and we know that Yemen has a series of agreements with the EU. We wish to see how we can help.
Q: How are bilateral ties between Greece and Yemen?
A: Our political relations have always been very good. We never had any problems. We agree on many issues. So improving the political relations is just the question of exchanging ideas – what type of treaties to be signed. We signed treaties for technical collaboration in the past. Now we want to build on them by expanding to other fields.
Both countries have the same approach of resorting to international arbitration in their disputed islands, for example. Any problems that may occur should be dealt with according to international law. Yemen is a democratic country, a fact which encourages us to institute better cooperation in all fields.
Yemen and Greece also have a long history. Wherever you look in these two countries you have signs of civilizations.
Q: What do Greek people know about Yemen?
A: Greek people find that Yemen has a great artistic sense. Architecture is an obvious example. Yemeni crafts are famous all over the world.
Greeks are great travelers, who would like to come to Yemen. We would like to encourage tourism between the two countries.
Q: What other fields do you envision for cooperating with Yemen?
A: We would like to see if we can collaborate in the economic field. There are many projects being developed in Yemen in which Greek companies can participate. We already have good collaboration in the field of shipping. Greek ships have a long tradition of coming to Yemen. Greeks have many strong business ties with Yemenis.
Economic exchange between Yemen and Greece is very low at the moment. If we develop tourism and shipping, there will be a big volume of trade between our two countries. According to 1996 statistics, the annual exports from Greece to Yemen are valued at $19.3 million; while exports from Yemen to Greece are worth $3.1 million. The main products imported by Yemen from Greece are aluminum profiles, medicines and foodstuffs. We also have hi-tech companies in communications, software programs, and many other fields that can come to do business in Yemen.
Q: What about cultural relations between the two countries?
A: We offer scholarships to Yemeni students, but they are few now. Hopefully we can increase the number in the future. I am sure the two governments can agree on this.