FM-Athens, 16 December 2003Ministry of Foreign Affairs —
Stavros Labrinides: Sir Mr. President of the Arab Republic of Syria, sirs, Foreign Ministers of Greece and Syria, ladies and gentlemen wars in earth will not stop from one day to another, but if we are able to have peace for 16 days then maybe we can have it for ever.
This was the message of the ancient Olympic Games and this is the message of the modern Olympic Games and this is the declaration Mr. President that you honour us here today and you will sign. As you know, the foreign minister of Greece Mr. George A. Papandreou is one of the global leaders of the truce movement and also the vice president of the Truce Center, which I am honoured to be the director. Before I call both of you to sign the declaration I would like to watch a video presentation regarding the Olympic truce.
Stavros Labrinides: Mr. President, 27 country and government leaders have already signed the declaration you are about to sign, and 60 foreign ministers from all over the world. Recently, last Saturday, Negib Maxfouz, holder of a literature Nobel award, signed in Cairo. It is a great honour for us; please Mr. President and Mr. Foreign Minister sign the declaration.
SIGNING OF OLYMPIC TRUCE
George A. Papandreou: It is indeed an honour to have you here with us, President of a country with such warm ties with Greece, but the fact that you are here to sign the idea of the Olympic Truce is a message of peace in itself.
You are coming from a region with many difficult problems. Your neighbours, Iraq, the Middle East, a region war-torn with suffering but with great hope for peace and stability.
So, your presence here and your will to support this cause is indeed a very strong message of peace. The Olympic Games were founded in ancient times on the idea of peace. As a matter of fact, King Ifitus of Elis asked the gods then what he should do to get peace and they said, "You should organize a big festival". And it was in Olympia and that is why we have the Olympic Games. And they did hold the idea of truce for over one thousand years, as a holy truce. It was in fact the longest peace treaty in human history.
So, now we are trying to revive this tradition and we have had the unanimous support of the United Nations and your signature means much to us, not only because it comes from the region where you are, not only because our relations are so warm and the two countries and our cultures are so interlinked, but because of your personal stature, Mr. President, and your vision for a better world in the region. We thank you very much.
Bashar Al-Assad: I would like to thank the foreign minister, for inviting me here to sign the declaration of the Olympic Truce. This is a real proof that reveals our will to have peace prevail in a global level. I believe that this initiative taken by the Greek government is considered very important.
We want with the Olympic truce to eliminate conflicts or clashes not only during the Olympic Games but this to become a new start to have peace for ever. I sign this declaration for the Olympic truce in Athens today. If we look back in our joint history, Greek history exists in Syria. Roman history coexisted in Greece and Syria. We gave to the Roman Empire many emperors, which had Syrian decent. This shows that more than a thousand of years ago we had the knowledge to negotiate. During those 1.000 years of dialogue that began in our region and continued in our region, the Islamic civilization was borne, which has been influenced by the ancient Greek Civilization and by the civilization of our region. The meaning of this agreement is peace and the restraint of violence. To restraint violence is achieved with development, prosperity and progress.
Both of these meanings are confronted with the meaning of war, with war and terrorism. It is not an accidental event that in Athens in 1986 began the initiative to combat terrorism, initiated by the former president Hafez Al Assad. Your history, is history of peace, as well as ours is a history of peace even though we found ourselves in the center of wars for many centuries. We should begin from this point and from Syria together in order to bring peace in the Palestine region, in Iraq, in the Middle East region and all over the world. I would like to hank the foreign minister for inviting me here to sign the declaration of the Olympic Truce.