Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (3rd L), Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli (2nd L) cut the ribbon for the opening ceremony of the 82nd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in Thessaloniki, Greece on Sept. 9, 2017. China is an honored country this year in TIF, which is Greece's largest and most prestigious annual trade fair. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
THESSALONIKI, Greece, Sept. 9 (Xinhua)-- Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hailed Sino-Greek cooperation on Saturday, expressing confidence for the further deepening of bilateral ties, during the opening of China's pavilion at Greece's top annual trade fair in the northern city port of Thessaloniki.
China is the honored country in the 82nd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) which is the largest on terms of participants and visitors in the past decade, according to the Greek organizers.
Until Sept. 17 some 250,000 visitors from 17 countries are expected to stroll through the kiosks of 1,500 exhibitors.
The Greek leader cut the ribbon at the Chinese pavilion during a ceremony which was broadcast on Greek national broadcaster ERT, welcoming China's role as honored country at TIF as "a landmark in the bilateral relations which have become stronger in recent years and have great prospects for the future."
Addressing the event, he praised China's Belt and Road initiative, reiterated Greece's strong support and underlined the key role Chinese investments hold in Greece's efforts to overcome the debt crisis and restore growth.
"We will quickly move forward, and via the collaboration with Chinese enterprises and Chinese investments here, to transform Greece into an international transport, trade and energy hub," the Greek prime minister said.
Addressing the ceremony, Chinese ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli noted that it was the first time after 19 years that China is the honored country in Greece's most prestigious trade fair.
"This is a clear sign of the progress achieved in mutual understanding and trust between the two countries and peoples and of the joint efforts we make to address challenges to the benefit of all sides," the ambassador said.
"It will also broaden the prospects for development and give a boost in economic progress throughout the Balkans and the southeastern Mediterranean," he stressed.
Accompanied by several Greek ministers, the Greek leader toured the fair as well as China's exhibition hall which occupies an area of six acres, with about 170 companies including giants representing major sectors of the Chinese economy.
The entire exhibition site, as well as the streets of Thessaloniki, has been decorated with 5,000 traditional Chinese red lanterns by the municipality of Thessaloniki this year.
Later on Saturday the Greek prime minister was scheduled to deliver a keynote speech on his government's economic policy inaugurating the fair.