January 26, 2021 marks the centenary of our country's diplomatic relations with Estonia and Latvia, whose independence Belgium recognized in 1921. Belgium maintained this historic decision during the decades following the Second World War and stood by these countries when they regained their independence in 1991.
This Tuesday January 26, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès met the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, H.E. Mr. Níkos Déndias, during his visit to Brussels. The two ministers were able to exchange their experience in the management of the COVID-19 epidemic in their respective countries and their views on major European issues.
On Monday, January 25, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, H.E. Mr. Anze Logar, during his visit to Brussels. It was a first meeting with her counterpart. The bilateral relationship between Belgium and Slovenia, beyond the European framework, is excellent.
On Monday January 25, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sophie Wilmès, participated with her counterparts to the Foreign Affairs Council held in Brussels. It began with exchanges on topical issues during which the European ministers discussed the political situation in several regions of the world, but also the future of transatlantic relations or the European strategy to facilitate access by third countries to vaccines against COVID-19. An exchange of views was also held with the Japanese Foreign Minister, H.E. Toshimitsu Motegi.
This month, Belgium takes over the presidency of the Benelux for one year. Initially, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès was to present the priorities of this presidency at a ceremony in Brussels in the presence of her Dutch and Luxembourg colleagues Stef Blok and Jean Asselborn, but given the sanitary evolution and the outbreak of new variants, this meeting has been canceled.
On Thursday January 21, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, H.E. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on the sidelines of his visit to the European institutions. This was a first meeting with her counterpart. In a frank atmosphere, the Deputy Prime Minister had the opportunity to discuss a number of important issues for Belgium but also to express some concerns.
Tomorrow, 31 December, Belgium's sixth mandate in the UN Security Council (VNVR) will come to an end. Two and a half years ago, our country had received the support of no less than 181 countries to sit at the table of the most important body for international peace and security for two years. During those two years, Belgium has been active on all the dossiers on the agenda of this body.
Belgium is supporting the activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Syria with a contribution of 2 million euros, in response to the organization's 2020 call for contributions for the country. The ICRC's action is essential and its neutral and independent humanitarian approach, in accordance with the mandate given by the States, makes it a key player in the protection and assistance to the populations affected by the conflict in Syria.
No country in the world will be safe from COVID-19 as long as not all countries are safe. That is why the Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir is making 4 million euros available for the COVAX initiative. COVAX is a global collaboration with governments and pharmaceutical companies to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are available and accessible to all countries worldwide.