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Chinese premier's Britain trip aims to clear hurdles and advance cooperation
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Special> Premier Li Keqiang Visits UK, Greece
UPDATED: June 24, 2014
China Committed to Peaceful Settlement of Maritime Disputes

China is committed to settling maritime disputes through dialogue and negotiation on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law, says visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Li made the statement on Friday when addressing the China-Greece Maritime Cooperation Forum in Athens, where he called for stronger maritime cooperation between the two nations and expounded China's viewpoints on maritime affairs.

Sea of peace, cooperation, harmony

Pledging to jointly build a "sea of peace" with other countries, Li said China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development and firmly oppose any act of hegemony in maritime affairs.

"China is a signatory state to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and has made active efforts to safeguard the principles of the convention," he said.

China is willing to strengthen communication and cooperation with related countries and improve bilateral and multilateral mechanisms, so as to jointly safeguard free and safe navigation, fight piracy and terrorism, respond to disasters and construct a maritime order of peace and tranquility.

He added that China is resolute in safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is conducive to regional peace and order as well.

Proposing to build a "sea of cooperation," Li said China is willing to work with maritime states to actively forge a cooperative partnership to build sea lanes, develop marine economy and utilize marine resources, among other endeavors.

He also proposed to build a "sea of harmony" and shared his vision on protecting the marine environment.

The organic coexistence of mankind and oceans is the right way to deal with nature, he said, adding that all countries should properly treat the marine eco-environment to preserve oceans as mankind's reliable and inhabitable home.

Model for maritime partnership

On China-Greece cooperation, Li pledged to continue cooperating with the southern European country and supporting its efforts to revive its economy.

The two countries, which have already forged a comprehensive strategic partnership, have a great prospect for maritime cooperation, Li added.

He proposed that China and Greece make good use of the "China-Greece Marine Year" program in 2015, establish an intergovernmental committee on cooperation, and enhance cooperation in such fields as marine technology, environmental protection, disaster prevention and management, and maritime law enforcement.

He suggested that the two countries make the Piraeus Container Terminal project, jointly operated by China and Greece, a highlight in their cooperation, and build the Piraeus port into a most competitive one in Europe and even in the world.

To that end, Li proposed to develop such industries as ship building and repairing, and reconstruct the rail linking the Piraeus port to inland Europe.

He called on China and Greece to further cooperation in the shipping industry and expand cooperation in trade and investment.

The premier also urged both countries to make unique contributions to forging a modern marine civilization.

The Piraeus port, the largest in Greece, is jointly operated by Chinese state-owned shipping giant COSCO and the Greek port authority under a 35-year lease agreement signed in 2009. COSCO is the first Chinese corporation that has been given a long-term concession to operate a large port in Europe.

Hiring over 800 people, with only eight of them from China, the wharf has seen its cargo flow grow significantly and brought considerable revenues to the European country.

Also speaking at the forum, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said Greece is ready to strengthen maritime cooperation with China and jointly boost the construction of the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.

The Chinese premier's views on China-Greece maritime cooperation resonated with many Greek experts.

Vassilios Lukousis, vice president of the Hellenic Center for Marine Research, said that "blue growth" has brought new expectations for economic development, with new job opportunities created thanks to the unexplored potential of oceans, seas and coastal areas.

"There is no doubt that both Greece and China have the potential in blue growth and should promote cooperation on marine research, shipping, technology and innovations," he said.

Vassilis Digalakis, rector of Technical University of Crete, said that the China-Greece Maritime Cooperation Forum provided the opportunity for his university to sign a research agreement with a Chinese institute, which will enhance their cooperation on marine science and technology.

Media focus on constructive ties

Greek media have given an extensive coverage to the China-Greece ties before and throughout Li's visit to the Mediterranean country, which they have described as a milestone for the future development of bilateral relations.

"The visit opens new roads for Chinese investments," said the title of the main article in Vima newspaper on Thursday.

"The Greek government and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras attach great political importance to the Chinese premier's visit to Greece. The further strengthening of financial ties between Greece and China, a world power in economic terms, is of strategic importance for Athens," Vima said.

Commentators from Greek dailies, television channels and news portals stressed the great importance attached by both countries to the further development of their ties for the benefit of both countries and peoples.

"The Greek Prime Minister addressed his Chinese counterpart as a friend and praised China's support to Greece in difficult times," noted a report by Greek national news agency AMNA which was circulated by several newspapers and television channels.

Daily newspaper Ethnos noted in an article that Li's visit "signals the start of a major circle of investments to Greece," as COSCO's successful operation at Piraeus has paved the way for more Chinese investments.

"Throughout his visit to Greece, the Chinese premier did not stop underlining the strategic character of Chinese investment to Greece," wrote an article carried by Xrima financial news portal.

An editorial carried by Vima newspaper on Friday under the title "Dragon's era" said the China-Greece cooperation is strategic and must be strengthened as much as possible. "It is cooperation with nothing but positive elements for Greece."

Li arrived in Athens on Thursday for a three-day official visit, his first trip to Greece since he took office in 2013. Greece is the second leg of his two-nation Europe tour, which first took him to Britain.

(Xinhua News Agency June 21, 2014)

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