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Foreign Minister Droutsas’ statements following his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (New York, 18 February 2011)
Mr. Droutsas: As I do each time, I had a very constructive and in-depth discussion with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. As a country that bases is foreign policy on full respect for international law, Greece obviously supports the work of the United Nations and the personal work of the Secretary General, and I conveyed this to Mr. Ban Ki-moon.
We talked about a number of issues. First of all the recent developments in the Middle East, the Arab countries, and in particular Egypt, Tunisia and other countries in the wider region. I stressed that we are monitoring developments very closely.
Greece is part of the region. It is our immediate neighbourhood, and thus we have a special interest in developments in this region. We said that any kind of violence must be avoided in this effort of the countries of the region, the peoples of the region, to gain more democracy. We noted that maintaining and respecting all fundamental rights and individual freedoms is very important and should be respected by everyone.
I also shared with Mr. Ban Ki-moon a thought, an idea, that Greece has. Greece is the birthplace of Democracy, and since we are talking about a process of the democratization of the region, an effort to build real democracies, in terms of symbolism, as well, if you will, Greece can play a very important and serious role. There is the idea of founding a Center for Democracy – let’s call it that – through which we will be able to help to train new politicians from these countries and help in the development of the new political parties we need to see in these countries. The Secretary General said he thinks this initiative is a very useful idea, and we will see in the immediate future how we can collaborate in this sector.
We also talked about the FYROM name issue, of course. I had yet another opportunity to reiterate to the Secretary General Greece’s position for a name with a geographical qualifier for use in relation to everyone, erga omnes, and I assured the Secretary General of the will of Greece and the Greek government for a solution. The invitation, if you will, is extended to the political leadership of FYROM and Mr. Gruevski to take the necessary decisions that will lead to a solution, and that will at the same time lead his country and the people of FYROM to a European future, to stability in the country and a stable and European future for the whole region.
The Cyprus issue and recent developments were also a focal point of our talks, of course. Here I had the opportunity to stress to the Secretary General Greece’s position, first of all, in full support of the efforts of the United Nations and the Secretary General personally. I stressed, once again, the basis for the solution we want to see: a solution based on the resolutions of the United Nations and with full respect for the European acquis.
We mustn’t forget that the Republic of Cyprus is a full member of the EU, and this also needs to be borne in mind in the negotiations and the final draft of the solution. I stressed to the Secretary General that we want everyone to take an objective view in handling the issue and the process. We insist on a process that is Cypriot, that is by Cypriots and for Cypriots. This is the process we need to follow. There is no room for glossing things over or taking a simplistic view on this issue. We want the facts to be recorded objectively.
The fact is that we see a Republic of Cyprus – the Greek Cypriot side, and President Demetris Christofias personally – submitting very constructive proposals and approaching the issue in the most constructive manner possible. But we observe that the Turkish Cypriot side, and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mr. Eroglu, personally, is not responding in the same constructive manner. We see him expressing positions that are reminiscent of the past and that, in our view, deviate from the foundation that has been agreed upon, at various times, for resolving the Cyprus issue.
We also discussed the issue of piracy. This is an issue that is important for Greek shipping and that we agree requires close cooperation with the international community. This is an issue that can be resolved only through joint efforts of the international community.
Finally, I once again expressed Greece’s full support for the overall work of the United nations and the personal efforts of the Secretary General.
Journalist: Can you tell us a little about the Geneva talks?
Mr. Droutsas: I cannot comment on or talk about the talks that took place in Geneva. The Secretary General was kind enough to brief me on how he saw these talks. I say again, that for us the reality is that President Christofias is presenting his proposals in a very constructive manner and has dedicated himself to the goal of resolving the Cyprus issue. But sometimes – and I am not happy to be repeating this – the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community does not respond in the same straightforward and constructive manner to the proposals submitted by President Christofias.
Journalist: Mr. Minister, Israel took a step forward and recognized Greece’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In your opinion, does this make the negotiations with Turkey easier? And when will Greece decide to recognize Israel’s EEZ?
Mr. Droutsas: This issue wasn’t discussed on our talks with the Secretary General. As we have said repeatedly, the goal of the Greek government – and not just the current government – is to delimit all the maritime zones with all of our neighbours. We have begun for some time now – not just the current government, I stress – the process with all our neighbours for delimitation of maritime zones. The same holds true for the Republic of Cyprus. Our relations are close; brotherly. And there is total coincidence of views on this matter. Our pursuits are common and the whole process will take place in the most appropriate manner.
Journalist: Regarding the Cyprus issue, we have recently seen the Secretary General come out as overly optimistic regarding a solution, progress, etc., while Nicosia and Athens send messages to the effect that there has been no progress since Mr. Eroglu took over leadership of occupied Cyprus. What is the Secretary General’s reply on these issues? What is his optimism based on?
Mr. Droutsas: I think I was very clear in my statements earlier. We want things to be set out objectively, in the right way, so that they reflect the reality of the situation. As I said, for us the reality, the truth, is that the Greek Cypriot side, President Christofias, is contributing in a very constructive manner. We would like to se the same constructive manner from the Turkish Cypriot community as well.