UAE News

Minister of Foreign Affairs offers helping hand for struggling Greece


By Tom Arnold

The UAE is seeking to boost its investment from sovereign wealth funds and private businesses in Greece, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday.

The comments, made after talks between the two countries in Athens, come as the debt-burdened country struggles to secure funding needed to keep it afloat.

"The UAE is committed to reaching out to the Greek government and private sector to strengthen relations and look at boosting the presence" of private sector companies and sovereign funds in Greece, Sheikh Abdullah said in the Greek capital yesterday.

The Minister is leading an official delegation to Greece to explore opportunities for extending links between the two countries. The two-day visit included a meeting of the first joint panel between the UAE and Greece, chaired on the Greek side by Benjalos Theodoros, the country's deputy prime minister.

Education, finance, tourism, health and security are among the areas in which officials are keen to enhance relations.

Greece has been mulling investment from wealthy countries from around the world as it fights to stave off economic meltdown. It is scrambling to conclude a bond swap deal with private creditors to halve its debt load to receive further cash from its euro-zone partners and the IMF. Without the funding, Greece risks defaulting in March on 14.5 billion (Dh67.66bn) of maturing bonds.

"We are about to finalise shortly negotiations on private sector participation, which is a necessary condition for the second programme," Olli Rehn, the EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner, told the European Parliament yesterday. "It is not going to be easy, but I am reasonably confident we will achieve this aim."

Germany and France warned Greece on Monday it would not get a second 130bn bailout until creditor banks agreed to a voluntary 50 per cent cut in their bond holdings. The two euro-zone powerhouses are also worried Greece has been falling behind with making required cuts to its budget deficit.

Investment from the Gulf and elsewhere has already been pledged to help pull the country out of its worst recession in four decades.

Qatar last year provided funds for a merger of two of Greece's largest banks and the sovereign wealth fund Qatar Holding struck a deal to finance US$600 million (Dh2.2bn) of mining operations in the country.

China agreed to invest billions of euros in Greece in 2010 after signing 14 commercial deals.

On a previous visit to Athens in April 2010, Sheikh Abdullah promised greater cooperation between the nations, especially in the fields of navigation and shipbuilding.

Volumes of UAE non-oil trade with Greece in 2010 stood at $117m.

*With Bloomberg News and Reuters

Photo: Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, speaks during a business forum in Athens yesterday (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris).

Source: "The National", Abu Dhabi, 12 January 2012



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