Greece has opened talks with Chinese commercial giant Cosco to turn the main Greek port of Piraeus into a "global service centre," development and shipping minister Louka Katseli said on Wednesday. "We discussed the development of Piraeus into a global service centre," Katseli told reporters after meeting with Cosco president and CEO chairman Wei Jiafu who is on a four-day official visit to Greece.

"The harbour is more than piers, this is about customer service, logistics, a trade hub, and (Cosco) is very interested in these services," she said.

Last year, Greece granted Cosco a 35-year concession on the two main container terminals at Piraeus in a deal for a guaranteed premium of 3.4 billion euros (four billion dollars).

"We do our best to help you," Wei told reporters after meeting Katseli.

"Our advantage is shipping and we have the global influence to attract other shipping companies to follow Cosco's steps to support your country," he said.

Wei also met Greek President Carolos Papoulias on Wednesday and is to see Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday.

Cosco will begin operating Piraeus' dock II on June 1, the chairman of the Piraeus port authority (OLP) said.

Greek press reports on Wednesday said that the Chinese are also interested in Greek shipyards and the development of a new commercial centre in Thriasio, west of the capital.

Greece had spent years trying to persuade China of its strategic role as a trade partner, both by virtue of its location on the crossroads between Europe and Asia and as a member of the European Union.

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