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Briefing of diplomatic correspondents by Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Highlights:

[on a possible return to the visa system in Western Balkan countries]

  • “Greece believes that the liberalization of visas for the countries of the Western Balkans was a very important and positive step, because it is essentially a measure directed at the societies of these countries, bringing them closer to Europe. It lets the peoples of the Western Balkans know exactly what their perspective is. It reaffirms the fact that they are part of the European family, and thus they have the opportunity for greater contact with the European reality. That is why Greece supported the liberalization of the visa regime from the very outset, and we continue to believe that all of us need to work so that we can maintain this system. Naturally, as you can understand, this assumes that the countries of the region take all the necessary measures for implementing strict controls; the strict procedures and prerequisites required for such a system to function smoothly and not become a tool for abusing the potentials of the asylum system that exists in Europe.”

[on Agathonisi and Farmakonisi]

  • “Some days ago a Turkish politician made wild statements concerning Agathonisi and Farmakonisi, and there was an immediate reaction. So, I repeat that Greece is not discussing – nor is there any issue concerning – the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country at any point within Greek territory.”
  • “As to the specific incident, the facts are as follows: some Turkish citizens appeared at Agathonisi, and immediate checks were carried out by the competent Port Authority, who made it clear that without the necessary documents, they could not remain on Greek territory. Consequently, the Turkish citizens departed directly. So, the reaction was immediate. Beyond that, we think it is obvious that in Turkey – because they are in a run-up to elections, too – responsibility and seriousness have to be exercised.”

[on the humanitarian aid mission to Libya]

  • “The planning is moving ahead and we will have the transporting of personnel – the diplomatic team and the medical unit with its equipment – via an Air Force C130 aircraft. The move will very probably be made over the weekend, and this team will then be able to prepare the ground for receipt of humanitarian aid, which will be transported by a ship chartered by the Greek state.”

Complete transcript (translation):

Mr. Delavekouras: I’ll start with the programmes. At 13:30 this afternoon, Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas will meet with the Lebanese Ambassador to Athens.

On Monday, 23 May, Mr. Droutsas, accompanied by Alternate Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou, will be in Brussels to participate in the General Affairs and Foreign Affairs Councils (GAC/FAC). The FAC agenda includes discussions on the Southern Neighbourhood, the Middle East, the Caucasus, Sudan, and human rights issues. The GAC will look at preparations for the 23-24 June European Council.

On Tuesday, 24 May, Mr. Droutsas will carry out a visit to Rome, where he will have a number of bilateral meetings. He is set to meet with Italian Foreign Minister Frattini, the Speaker of the Italian Parliament, Mr. Fini, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Dini, and the Governor of the Bank of Italy, Mr. Draghi.

On Wednesday and Thursday, 25-26 May, Mr. Droutsas will accompany the Prime Minister to the OECD Summit in Paris.

At. 13:00 on Friday, 27 May, the Foreign Minister will meet with Mr. Stefanovic, Serbia’s head negotiator in the Belgrade-Pristina talks.

Alternate Foreign Minister Xenogiannakopoulou will meet today with the Croatian Ambassador to Athens.

Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis has been in Cairo since yesterday, 18 May, and will be there through the 20th. He is heading a business delegation that is participating in the Greek-Egyptian business forum. During his stay in Cairo, he will have a series of bilateral meetings.

On Sunday, 22 May, Mr. Kouvelis will travel to Brussels to participate in the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative (AII) Ministerial, which will take place on Monday, 23 May, and the meeting of EU Development Cooperation Ministers set for Tuesday, 24 May.

From 25 to 27 May, Mr. Kouvelis will be heading a business mission to Kuwait, where he will have a series of bilateral meetings.

The Foreign Ministry’s Secretary General, Ambassador Yannis-Alexis Zepos, will carry out a visit to Beijing on Thursday, 26 May 2011, at the invitation of Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Ms. Fu Ying.

During his visit, Mr. Zepos will have meetings with Chinese officials and consultations with Ms. Fu Ying, within the framework of which a broad range of bilateral and international issues will be discussed.

Finally, tomorrow, 20 May, the Foreign Ministry’s Secretary General for International Economic Relations & Development Cooperation, Mr. Papadopoulos, will be in Palermo to participate in an international conference on the creation of financial instruments for bolstering SMEs in the Mediterranean region.

That’s it for announcements. Your questions, please.

M. Popovic: We’re going to find out next month whether there is to be a return to the visa system we had a year and a half ago for the countries of the Western Balkans. What is Greece’s stance on this issue? Does Greece support the countries of the Western Balkans? What will its stance be in June, and do you think there will be an impact if we have visas and Schengen in these countries again? Thank you.

Mr. Delavekouras: There is a discussion under way on the procedure for a potential return to the visa system. This discussion is under way.

Greece believes that the liberalization of visas for the countries of the Western Balkans was a very important and positive step, because it is essentially a measure directed at the societies of these countries, bringing them closer to Europe.

It lets the peoples of the Western Balkans know exactly what their perspective is. It reaffirms the fact that they are part of the European family, and thus they have the opportunity for greater contact with the European reality.

That is why Greece supported the liberalization of the visa regime from the very outset, and we continue to believe that all of us need to work so that we can maintain this system.

Naturally, as you can understand, this assumes that the countries of the region take all the necessary measures for implementing strict controls; the strict procedures and prerequisites required for such a system to function smoothly and not become a tool for abusing the potentials of the asylum system that exists in Europe.

N. Meletis: Is it insinuated in any of the replies to the demarches we have made to Turkey regarding flyovers of the two islands that the sovereignty of the two islands is questioned?

Mr. Delavekouras: There is no question as to the sovereignty of any inch of Greek territory. I think this is crystal clear, and the Foreign Minister had the opportunity yesterday to stress this emphatically once again. As to what Turkey’s views are, that is a Turkish matter. But beyond that, the clear reality of the situation is that there is no one who can question our sovereignty.

N. Meletis: Apparently, you didn’t understand my question. You didn’t answer my question.

Mr. Delavekouras: I’m not going to tell you what the Turkish side says, in any case, on any issue. I give you Greece’s positions and the reality of the situation.

N. Meletis: Let me set out my thinking: The Turkish Foreign Minister comes out in 2009 and says that the sovereignty of these two Greek islands is under doubt. Since then, dozens of demarches have been made. There are discussions within the framework of the exploratory contacts, and you tell us what our position is. I’m asking whether Turkey has ever replied, has ever questioned the Greek sovereignty of these two islands.

Mr. Delavekouras: And I repeat that Greece’s positions are clear. Greece does not tolerate or accept contention of any inch of Greek territory. Beyond that, regarding what Mr. Davutoglu did or did not say, we do not, as you know, comment in any case on leaked dispatches from the U.S. State Department, so I won’t go into that discussion. What I do want to stress once more is that no margin is allowed for claims on any part of Greek territory – not even discussion, naturally.

N. Meletis: [off microphone]

Mr. Delavekouras: No, I repeat that there were some statements recently from a Turkish politician, and because there can be no doubts regarding such matters – matters we consider to be of the utmost importance – we made our position clear, and I think that is the key point: that Greece will not tolerate any contentions regarding any point within Greek territory. The status is clear.

N. Meletis: Mr. Spokesman, I persist: Has there been, on any level, a questioning of Greek sovereignty over these two islands?

Mr. Delavekouras: And I say again, because you are asking me what Turkey says …

N. Meletis: No, I’m not talking about the Turks … you answer that there is no issue of sovereignty, and I am asking whether the Greek sovereignty of these two islands has been threatened or questioned?

Mr. Delavekouras: I have already said that some days ago a Turkish politician made wild statements concerning Agathonisi and Farmakonisi, and there was an immediate reaction. So, I repeat that Greece is not discussing – nor is there any issue concerning – the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country at any point within Greek territory.

N. Meletis: Right, Mr. Spokesman. As it is a little unusual for a Foreign Ministry to reply to an odd politician from a neighbouring country, as the Hurriyet article refers to statements from Foreign Ministry officials, our Embassy, the Secretary General here with the Turkish Embassy, did they look into whether what was reported in Hurriyet really corresponds to the views of the Turkish Foreign Ministry?

Mr. Delavekouras: First of all, there was a reaction to the alleged reactions of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, not just to the statements of the Turkish politician. The reaction was exactly – so that we can be absolutely clear – that there is no such issue, there can be no such issue, the status is clear, it is set down clearly and there can be no contentions or doubts.

N. Meletis: [off microphone] the Turkish Foreign Ministry whether this was the case or it was just made up by the article’s author.

Mr. Delavekouras: The alleged reactions reported in the article?

N. Meletis: Yes.

Mr. Delavekouras: Again, Turkey can leak anything it wants. The essence of the matter is that Greece will not tolerate any contentions as to the sovereignty of any part of Greek territory.

L. Blaveris: With regard to yesterday’s incident, are you satisfied at the Greek side’s reaction time? That is, are you satisfied at the reaction time of the competent Greek services to the given incident? Thank you.

Mr. Delavekouras: As to the specific incident, the facts are as follows: some Turkish citizens appeared at Agathonisi, and immediate checks were carried out by the competent Port Authority, who made it clear that without the necessary documents, they could not remain on Greek territory. Consequently, the Turkish citizens departed directly. So, the reaction was immediate. Beyond that, we think it is obvious that in Turkey – because they are in a run-up to elections, too – responsibility and seriousness have to be exercised. For our part, as you can see, the reaction of the Greek Authorities is immediate in every case.

A. Voudouri: Regarding the humanitarian aid to be sent to Libya, where are we on that issue? Why the delay?

Mr. Delavekouras: There is no delay. The planning is moving ahead and we will have the transporting of personnel – the diplomatic team and the medical unit with its equipment – via an Air Force C130 aircraft. The move will very probably be made over the weekend, and this team will then be able to prepare the ground for receipt of humanitarian aid, which will be transported by a ship chartered by the Greek state.

N. Meletis: How many people in the mission?

Mr. Delavekouras: The Foreign Ministry team, according to the planning so far, will consist of three persons, plus the medical team, which, if I’m not mistaken, will be about 10 persons.

N. Meletis: Who’s going to be watching out for them?

Mr. Delavekouras: They will remain there and all the necessary measures will be taken for their safety.

L. Blaveris: Is the medical team military or civilian?

Mr. Delavekouras: Civilian. Thank you.

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