Athens reaches out to Syria via Greek Orthodox community

Syria’s Greek Orthodox Christians hope the resumption of ties between Syria and Greece will help them recover from the war

The appointment this spring of Greece’s former Syrian ambassador as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ new special envoy for Syria is being viewed as a sign of Greece’s renewed geopolitical interest in its southern neighborhood and of its desire to establish a greater role in a country to which it has deep historic ties.

According to Ioannis Grigoriadis, head of the Turkey Program at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy in Athens, the decision is part of a wider attempt to refocus on the region brought about by the escalation of tensions between Greece and Turkey.

Speaking with Al-Monitor, Grigoriadis said, “The Libyan-Turkish maritime agreement prompted a reaction leading to a complete reconsideration of Greek policy in the Middle East. As Greece’s economy continues to recover post-COVID-19, the Levant will be a new area of regional ambition for Greece.”

As Greece looks for countries where it can increase its footprint while pressuring Turkey, Syria is a logical choice. Dimitrios Katsoudas, Greece’s secretary general for European affairs from 2007-2009 and a previous policy adviser who has held various positions within the country’s current ruling New Democracy Party, told Al-Monitor, “Greece has a strong will to participate both in Syria’s permanent pacification and to its reconstruction,” adding, “Greece, for historic, geopolitical and economic reasons, needs to hold a strong position in Syria, and our allies need to understand this”.

Damascus businessman Charles Catinis is a living example of the historic ties between Greece and Syria and has been following the rapprochement between the two countries with a sense of hope. In a phone interview, he told Al-Monitor, “Greece was the last European country to close its embassy when the war started. Now when we need to renew our passports or obtain documents, we must travel to Lebanon to visit the Greek Consulate in Beirut.”

Read more: Al-Monitor