China and Greece signed a memorandum of understanding on Aug 27 to cooperate further within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, making the Mediterranean country the first developed Western nation to ink such a deal with China.
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi likened the MOU to a symbol of the strong bilateral cooperation between Beijing and Athens during the signing ceremony with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias in Beijing.
Kotzias began a five-day official visit to China on Aug 26, with Shanghai also on his itinerary.
“As a significant intersection along the overland and maritime silk routes, Greece is a natural partner for jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative,” Wang said at a news conference after meeting with Kotzias.
Eurasia is a key region of cooperation for the initiative, which will connect the economic centers of both continents, facilitate interconnectivity and open up new areas of cooperation, Wang said.
China will also dovetail the BRI with strategies including the Investment Plan for Europe, and push forward new cooperation models such as third-party cooperation and multilateral cofinancing, he added.
“We believe the initiative will become the new growth point of strategic cooperation between China and Greece,” he said.
The state councilor said that the China-Greece relationship, based on growing mutual trust, has achieved major progress in various areas including infrastructure and energy, adding that Greece’s Port of Piraeus is a typical example of early cooperative projects.
The port, managed by China’s COSCO, has climbed to 38th globally in terms of cargo tonnage from 93rd in 2010.
The number of railway lines carrying containers from the port to Central and Eastern Europe now stands at about 18, Wang said, and the port’s direct economic contribution to Greece has exceeded 600 million euros ($700 million), with over 10,000 jobs created.
Wang also added that joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative between China and other countries is an important symbol of multilateralism.
“Both China and Greece are ready to provide more stability and positive energy in facing global uncertainties,” he said.
Kotzias, for his part, said his country supported the BRI, proposed by President Xi Jinping, and was glad to sign the MOU with China.
Greece will take the opportunity to push forward bilateral cooperation to a new level and people-to-people exchanges to new heights, he said.
Greece is willing to enhance coordination and cooperation with China amid global complexity and changes, to support multilateralism and promote free trade, he added.