Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the Artemis Accords Signing Ceremony With Greek Foreign Minister Georgios Gerapetritis, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, and Dr. Daglis
FEBRUARY 9, 2024
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good afternoon, everyone. Georgios, my friend, welcome. It is always good to see you and always an important occasion to say we’re so grateful for the partnership between our countries. Administrator Nelson, Bill, wonderful to have you here today. Dr. Daglis, you as well. Thank you to both of you for all that you do to further our understanding of space to the benefit of everyone here on Earth.
I’m very happy to host my colleagues for what is now our fifth U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue, but also for this ceremony marking an important new step in our relationship. The partnership between our countries is, in my judgment, the strongest it’s ever been. This was reinforced when I had a chance to visit Athens a year ago for our last strategic dialogue, and also reinforced by my recent visit just a few weeks ago to be with the prime minister in Crete.
Our countries are working together to promote peace and stability: standing with Ukraine, defending freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, confronting terrorism, providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance to people who need it, responding to natural disasters. We’re bolstering transatlantic defense and security through our Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement, our work to strengthen NATO, the sale of F-35 jets to Greece. And we’re building more opportunities for our people and for people around the world: accelerating the clean energy transition, combating climate change together.
And now we’re taking our partnership literally to new frontiers. By signing the Artemis Accords, Greece is joining the United States and 33 other nations to advance our shared vision for safe, peaceful, sustainable space exploration.
We’re working to shape the future of how our countries operate in space so that benefits are maximized for all people for generations to come. That’s why in October the Artemis Accords signatories identified steps to help us deconflict space missions and avoid space accidents. Our coalition now will be stronger with Greece. It’s an important member of the European Space Agency, where it’s helping to craft the next generation of communications technology so that people around the globe can share information more freely and more securely. And Greece is positioning itself as a leader in using small satellites to monitor our Earth’s environment and improve our understanding of climate change.
Through these accords, we’ll also draw upon the contributions made by Greece and its experts throughout history. In ancient times, Plato argued that the sun, the moon, the planets moved on circular paths. Over the last few decades, it was a Greek American physicist, Tom Krimigis, who helped NASA conduct experiments on all of the major planets in our solar system.
As the early Greek philosopher Glaucon put it, and I quote, “Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.” What an extraordinary vision and what a powerful description of what this is all about. Our partnership in the Artemis Accords will enable many more discoveries in these other worlds and make possible new horizons for all of our people. That’s why we’re so grateful to be joining together today.
With that, my friend Georgios, over to you.
FOREIGN MINISTER GERAPETRITIS: Thank you so much. Thank you, dear Secretary, dear Tony, for the warm welcome. Let me begin by expressing my deepest condolences to the families of the five members of the crew of the Marine helicopter who lost their lives tragically yesterday.
Our meeting today marks the opening of the fifth U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue. Please allow me at the outset to just place emphasis on the importance of those two Greek-origin words, “strategic” deriving from the Greek word strategíkos, meaning of high hierarchy, and “dialogue” coming from the Greek word diálogos, meaning discussion, debate on the ground of reason and logic. Therefore, our strategic dialogue is a means to set vision and enhance policy based on shared values, and it is important that today we’re signing the Artemis Accords in order to just be together not only on Earth but also in the space.
Such meaningful cooperation is today more needed than ever in the light of present global challenges, such as the climate change, migration, the – and pandemics, which directly affect the lives of billions of people; but also in the context of serious conflicts, from Ukraine and South Caucasus to Gaza and the Red Sea and Sahel, with imminent extraterritorial effects. What is urgently needed is global cooperation based on ethical commitments under the auspices of international law. This is, after all, the epitome of global governance, calling for rule-based international orders and universal solidarity.
In this respect, the further cultivation of our bilateral ties, as well as of the transatlantic cooperation, is of the utmost importance. And it is important that we’re here, one of the oldest members of the European Union and of the NATO, in order to discuss together and find new ways of cooperation.
We actively support EU enlargement to the Western Balkans and Ukraine. We underline the respect of international law and of the law of the seas. We urge to resume talks concerning the Cyprus problem towards a viable solution according to the resolutions of the security council of the European nations.
In relation to the Middle East, we are in a position by virtue of our relations with all involved parties to work constructively to prevent further humanitarian deterioration. And I would like to take this opportunity to stress Secretary’s Blinken tireless efforts to prevent the escalation in the humanitarian catastrophe of – in the Middle East, from where he just came back. We are all grateful for his efforts.
In relation to Ukraine, we’re hosting next week, alongside with a European investment bank, a reconstruction summit in Athens. And of course next April we’re hosting the ninth Our Ocean conference concerning the sustainability of the preservation of waters globally. I had the opportunity earlier this morning to have a very interesting talk with Special Presidential Envoy John Kerry, and it was really outstanding to see how we are completely likeminded in many respects.
Further, our economy – Greece’s economy – is back on a strong growth trajectory. This is also thanks to emblematic foreign direct investments coming from the United States. And we’re increasingly becoming a key player and a hub in the energy sector, with particular emphasis on infrastructures and interconnectors, in order to make diversification of energy sources more plausible in Europe. Just last month, our new floating storage regasification unit, the FSRU, arrived in Alexandroupolis and will soon start providing gas to the Balkans and Eastern Europe via Greece.
And we further develop our defense capabilities with upcoming acquisition of up to 40 F-35 jets, which reflects the depth of our mutual relations. In light of the above, I daresay that the United States and Greece complement each other, doing everything in their power to contribute to regional and global stability.
Let me conclude, my dear Secretary, by mentioning people-to-people ties, a vital underpinning of our strategic dialogue. The Greek American diaspora is a significant bridge of the two civilizations and of the two people, and of course I cannot but stress the importance of educational exchanges through the Fulbright exchange program, the U.S. German Marshall Fund, and other educational vehicles. And, of course, we also value the 53 Greece-related programs at American universities, including 11 chairs of Greek studies.
Dear Secretary, today we celebrate the International Greek Language Day. It’s a great day for us, and on this occasion, please allow me to conclude with some ecumenical Greek words. So thank you for your philoxenia, and I look forward to further synergies among our governments and nations – (laughter) – on grounds of common ethos so as to develop philanthropic and democratic ecumene. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Bill. And this is a reminder, so beautifully done, that pretty much everything begins with Greece. (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER GERAPETRITIS: I consent.
MR NELSON: Mr. Secretary. And thank you for all the lessons of foreign policy that you taught me many moons ago in the Senate. Mr. Minister, Mr. Director, Mr. – Dr. Daglis, we are in a golden era of space exploration, and who we engage in that space exploration is very important. Half a century ago in the Apollo program, NASA took a giant leap for humanity when we stepped foot on the moon. That was the Apollo program, and if you’ll recall, in Greek mythology, Apollo had a twin sister, and she is Artemis. And their father was Zeus; he was the king of the gods, and Artemis was the goddess of the moon and also the goddess of the hunt.
And now we’re going back to the moon after a half-century, and we’re doing it not in the Apollo program but in the Artemis Program. And then we go to the hunt, and the hunt is further than the moon. It is to go to Mars with a crew circa 2040. And as this signing today signifies, we are going with Greece, the birthplace of democracy and the longtime friend of the United States. It’s also the location of Mt. Olympus, the mythic abode of the gods and the throne of Zeus. And our countries are united by the shared principles of peace and prosperity. And now with this signing, we share these principles in the cosmos.
Today, Greece will join 34 other nations from across the globe, and together we are ensuring that humanity’s journey to the moon and beyond is done peacefully, safely, and transparently. And that’s what these Artemis Accords are. They’re commonsense declarations of we go in peace and to help each other as we explore the cosmos.
We will chart a path forward united by the possibilities of space and the promise of goodwill here on Earth. And I recall as President Kennedy was gathered at Rice Stadium when he had made that bold declaration in 1961 that we were going to the moon and return safely by the end of the decade. And I recall as he went to Rice, he said we go not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard. And he said something further. He was a sailor so often talked in nautical terms, and he said we go as star sailors, sailing on a cosmic sea to far-off cosmic shores. And that’s where we go together, Mr. Director, Dr. Daglis. (Applause.)
FOREIGN MINISTER GERAPETRITIS: Thank you so much.
MR NELSON: Thank you.
MR DAGLIS: Your Excellency, Secretary Blinken, and Minister Gerapetritis, Administrator Nelson, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to our esteemed hosts for organizing this momentous signing ceremony which marks the accession of Greece to the Artemis Accords. Here in the illustrious Treaty Room, we gather to celebrate a new chapter in international space cooperation. On a personal note, please allow me to add that I was delighted to discover the existence of the Benjamin Franklin Room here which is named after the revered American scientist whose legend has inspired me since childhood.
The Artemis Accords stand as a beacon of collaboration offering a roadmap for the future where humanity unites in space exploration fostering peace and progress. Named after Artemis, as you already mentioned, Administrator, the ancient Greek goddess symbolizing the moon, the Artemis Program embodies our collective aspiration to expand the horizons of human exploration and knowledge.
As we embark on this bold endeavor to return astronauts to the lunar surface and establish a sustainable human presence, Greece stands ready to contribute its experience in space science and engineering. Our vibrant community with its deep knowledge in space physics, remote sensing, robotics and space software eagerly anticipates the opportunity to enrich the Artemis Program. In joining the Artemis Accords, we affirm our commitment to advancing scientific discovery, driving technological innovation, and inspiring future generations of scientists and engineers. Greece is honored to be a part of this international endeavor, and we eagerly anticipate the journey ahead. Thank you. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Today, Greece shows exceptional leadership in signing the Artemis Accords, the most important international space policy commitment since the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, committing to safe, transparent, and responsible behavior as we advance humanity into the solar system together. (Applause.)