By Maria Spiliopoulou, Valentini Anagnostopoulou
THESSALONIKI, Greece, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Greek cabinet ministers welcomed on Sunday the congratulatory message Chinese Premier Li Keqiang extended on the opening of Greece's largest annual trade fair in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
With China as the honored country of the 82nd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli read Li's letter at the opening ceremony on Saturday evening, shortly before Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivered his speech.
In his congratulatory message, Li recalled that China was the first country as the guest of honor participating in the TIF in 1998.
"It was a new bridge for China-Europe economic and trade exchanges, which not only bore historic significance for the TIF's development, but also ushered in a new stage of China-Europe and China-Greece ties," said Li.
The Chinese premier praised the fruitful results of bilateral cooperation in the past 19 years, and stressed that China's participation as the guest country in the 82nd TIF marked a new starting point for China-Greece relations on a higher level with broad prospects.
Li said the Chinese government is willing to work with Greece and other countries to better synergize the Belt and Road Initiative with their respective development strategies to create broader common interests and carry out win-win cooperation at a deeper level, so as to better serve their peoples, promote the continued recovery of the global economy and achieve strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth.
The Chinese pavilion at the 82nd TIF covers nearly 6,000 square meters, with the participation of more than 100 Chinese brand enterprises from such sectors as transportation, telecommunications, energy, intelligent manufacturing and environmental protection.
"We believe that China's Belt and Road initiative can benefit Greece, but also that Greece has a lot to give back to this great country," Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media minister Nikos Pappas told Xinhua on Sunday, commenting on the content of Premier Li's letter.
Pappas made the remark on the sidelines of a forum on the New Silk Road organized in the context of TIF with the participation of many national news agencies worldwide, including China's Xinhua.
"We are very happy. I believe that this is a cooperation which will give excellent results in coming years," Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura added during the same forum.
"China's presence essentially upgraded the exhibition," State Minister Alekos Flambouraris told Xinhua after the opening ceremony on Saturday.
"Greece is emerging as a critical junction linking Europe to China... The framework of our cooperation with China is based on mutual respect," Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis stressed.
"This is a major step in Sino-Greek cooperation... The fair seals a course and opens a new era... It is a convergence of strategies which will lead to great results," Economy and Development Deputy Minister Stergios Pitsiorlas said on China's presence in this year's trade exhibition and Sino-Greek ties.
The Greek leader toured the stands on Saturday after cutting the ribbon in an opening ceremony, hailing bilateral cooperation.
This year's fair is the largest in terms of number of participants and visitors in the past decade, according to the Greek organizers.
Until the TIF closes on Sept. 17, approximately 250,000 visitors from 17 countries are expected to visit the kiosks of some 1,500 exhibitors.