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Our View: Less grandiose plans, more practical steps needed from tripartite

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (C) talks with Egyptian President Ahmed Fattah Al Sisi (L) and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (R) during a trilateral meeting in Athens, Greece, 09 December 2015. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's official visit to Greece and the trilateral meeting of Greece-Cyprus and Egypt scheduled held on 9th December, are part of the three countries' broader strategy to strenghten the relations with countries-traditionally partners in the region. EPA/SIMELA PANTZARTZI

ANOTHER tripartite summit took place on Wednesday, producing yet another lengthy joint statement about the plans of the participants and the political developments in the region. It was the third summit involving Greece, Cyprus and Egypt that seem to generate nothing more than positive-sounding declarations.

This time there was a sign that they would move on from words to deeds, but it was only a plan. The three leaders agreed to set up a “standing joint committee of co-operation which will develop, formulate and promote practical projects of trilateral interest.” What had they been discussing in the previous two summits is a mystery considering they needed a third to decide they would explore project on which to co-operate.

Perhaps forging a tripartite co-operation is a slow process, especially when there is no great practical need for one. This would also explain why it can only produce platitudes like the following that was included in the joint statement: “We remain convinced of the strategic nature of this trilateral co-operation and we will continue to work closely towards the fullest exploitation of its potential, to the benefit of our peoples and the wider region.”

Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who is not averse to mouthing the odd platitude, said “our tripartite co-operation is a pillar of peace and stability and transmits this message to the region.” President Anastasiades was a bit more practical seeing the discovery of big quantities of hydrocarbons as a catalyst for greater regional co-operation. “The goal is not to exclude anyone,” he said implying that Turkey was more than welcome to join the regional co-operation on hydrocarbons.

Speaking on state radio yesterday morning, energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis indicated that the tripartite co-operation did not only have grand designs. He mentioned Egypt would be given assistance by Greece on setting up fish farms and on cultivating olives in Sinai. President Al-Sisi, it appeared, was more interested in practical steps than grandiose statements and also spoke about co-operation in tourism and maritime connections.

These would be the positive elements of the tripartite co-operation which are of much greater value than reference to ‘strategic co-operation’. It is through joint ventures on more mundane pursuits such as setting up fish-farms and olive groves and developing tourism packages that stronger links would be built. Anastasiades is correct in pursuing the strengthening of relations with neighbouring countries, but there is no need to embellish this with grandiose plans about strategic co-operation and other such platitudes.

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