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Foreign Minister Droutsas’s interview on Flash FM with journalist A. Kokorikos

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Main points:

· “Nobody has said and nobody is saying that there aren’t any problems in the relations between [Greece and Turkey]. It is exactly these problems that we are trying to resolve – through this process, step by step, in a serious manner – guided always and solely by our country’s interests and rights. But we believe that it is worth our while to try to bring the relations between our two countries to the next level. It is in Greece’s interest.”

· “The policy and goal of the government – and not just this government, but the previous government, as well, which initiated this process and these proceedings and preparations – the goal and policy of the Greek government is the delimitation of all the maritime zones with all the neighbouring countries. But this is a comprehensive goal. You can’t look at things piecemeal, and it is a complex issue with many details, legal details, and Foreign Ministry experts, in collaboration with other specialists, have undertaken this serious, systematic comprehensive job and approach.”

· “Greece is not impacted by any casus belli, by any threat. Greece has firm, very strong positions and a strong deterrent capability.”

Complete transcript of the interview (translation):

Journalist: We have Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on the line. Good morning, Mr. Droutsas.

Mr. Droutsas
: Good morning.

Journalist: You were present at the President of the Republic’s talk with the Prime Minster. Meanwhile, Ms. Papariga submitted a question regarding the results of the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Turkey, saying – I want to start with this – that the designation of exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean, the Eastern Mediterranean, by Israel, Cyprus and Lebanon – for the exploitation of natural gas deposits – marks serious developments and there are concerns regarding the surrendering of sovereign rights.

Mr. Droutsas: What can I say, Mr. Kokorikos? This is same tune we always hear. All views are respected – from every political party and every party leader – but allow me to say that I have the impression that the fact that Prime Minister Papandreou’s recent visit to Turkey was so completely successful in terms of substance and image that it seems to be bothering certain people. And they are trying to win back lost ground, coming out with these kinds of thoughts – allow me to characterize them, with all due respect, as populist perceptions. One thing is certain, and I ask everyone listening to us to bear this in mind: the government and the Foreign Ministry are handling national issues, foreign policy issues, very carefully and in a systematic manner. Once again, Greece’s positions and goals on national issues are firm goals, longstanding positions. The large majority of political powers here in Greece are longstanding supporters of these positions. The current Greek government is supporting and pursuing these goals. Let there be no doubt that we, too, are pursuing these goals and trying to protect and promote the country’s interests in the best possible way.

Journalist: So, Mr. Droutsas, on this specific trip, was it originally planned for there to be some progress, some joint statement, some common agreement, or was it planned from the outset – from a PR standpoint, let’s say – as it turned out? Not to belittle it, because, as you said, image is very important in these matters.

Mr. Droutsas: Of course, Mr. Kokorikos, and I am clear on this. Because there were certain statements before the Prime Minister’s visit; there were those preparing the ground, saying, “Oh, there will be major decisions there, major announcements. The Turks are setting traps for us again, and we are going to fall in.” I’ve heard a number of such voices, and what can I say …

Journalist: So nothing was programmed …

Mr. Droutsas: I think Erzurum gave the lie to these claims, and I would hope that some would bear this in mind and not go on with this rhetoric.

Journalist: So nothing was on the programme from the outset?

Mr. Droutsas: Nothing was programmed, I repeat.

Journalist: Right.

Mr. Droutsas: The Greek Prime Minister got an invitation from his Turkish counterpart to address a meeting of Turkish Ambassadors. This is also a symbolic move, if you will, and we handled it as such, and Mr. Papandreou accepted this invitation because it really is a symbolic move. That was the goal of and reason for the trip. When you go there at the invitation of the Turkish Prime Minister, you take the opportunity for a meeting, for talks with your counterpart. But this wasn’t a meeting where you said, yes, there will be decisions, announcements, etc. We need to bear in mind that the process of rapprochement and cooperation with Turkey is a long, step-by-step process. The government has said that we want and are working for this rapprochement and closer cooperation with Turkey.

Journalist: And even that is difficult, because you and Mr. Davutoglu needed to stay up late talking for hours on the phone – after midnight – to resolve issues that threatened such a meeting at the last minute; and the Prime Minister and Mr. Erdogan as well. Even just what you are saying shows …

Mr. Droutsas: Mr. Kokorikos, let’s not exaggerate. It is a fact that …

Journalist: Look, I remember that the last time the Prime Ministers of Greece and Turkey talked after midnight was during the Imia crisis, and they spoke through a go-between, not directly.

Mr. Droutsas
: Please, let’s not compare …

Journalist: That’s why I’m saying that there is obviously progress, isn’t there?

Mr. Droutsas: Look, let me say this, as well – and I hope I say it in a way that we all understand. It is a fact that before the Prime Minister’s trip to Turkey – the day before he travelled – we had the provocative flyover in Agathonisi.

We were in Paris, the Prime Minister and I, where the Prime Minister was addressing an important economic conference, and his meeting with his French counterpart, Prime Minister Fillon. As soon as I was informed of the provocative flyover, I was obviously concerned and considering all the options.

And, obviously, we looked at the option of the Prime Minister’s not going to Turkey. The climate we have developed on a personal level, as well, if you will, is not all-important, but personal contact and the personal relationship plays a role today in the relations between the two countries.

Journalist: Clearly, but you obviously support that countries don’t have permanent good relations – they have permanent interests.

Mr. Droutsas: Nobody has said and nobody is saying that there aren’t any problems in the relations between our two countries. It is exactly these problems that we are trying to resolve – through this process, step by step, in a serious manner – guided always and solely by our country’s interests and rights. But we believe that it is worth our while to try to bring the relations between our two countries to the next level. It is in Greece’s interest.

Journalist: These days, given the visit to Erzurum, there has been a lot in the press, from journalists, intellectuals, former diplomats, politicians, to the effect that Greece has lagged behind in designating its exclusive economic zones. Greece has lagged behind compared to other countries in the region, including Cyprus, which did so under Tasos Papadopoulos, and I would like your reply on this. Do you think the country is limited in exercising this right by the Lisbon Treaty?

Mr. Droutsas: Of course not. Let’s not talk nonsense – excuse the word, but we have to put an end to this talk that third parties, usually non-institutional players, are cultivating. And here I want to urge everyone to bear more in mind what the Greek government says in a responsible manner. The policy and goal of the government – and not just this government, but the previous government, as well, which initiated this process and these proceedings and preparations – the goal and policy of the Greek government is the delimitation of all the maritime zones with all the neighbouring countries. But this is a comprehensive goal. You can’t look at things piecemeal, and it is a complex issue with many details, legal details, and Foreign Ministry experts, in collaboration with other specialists, have undertaken this serious, systematic comprehensive job and approach.

Journalist: The same holds true, Mr. Droutsas, for the other countries who did it. The same difficulties, the same institutional framework was used by the other countries. Why didn’t Cyprus and Israel fall behind on this.

Mr. Droutsas: That’s not how things are.

Journalist: What’s special about Greece?

Mr. Droutsas: Look, Mr. Kokorikos, it’s not that Greece has lagged behind or that it is only Greece that has lagged behind or not done certain things. This process is under way. We can’t make comparisons like that on these issues. Each country has its position, has things that it needs to bear in mind overall. It is a comprehensive project, a comprehensive approach, and it is unfair to criticise Greece. I read yesterday – it was conveyed to me – the day before, I don’t remember, an article or part of an article someone wrote accusing the Foreign Ministry of being afraid, of backing down, and this – I want to stress this once again – this is an insult not to the Foreign Ministry, the government or me personally. It is an insult to all these worthy people, our diplomats, who do battle daily …

Journalist: But obviously, Mr. Droutsas, no one wants …

Mr. Droutsas: Mr. Kokorikos, let me finish what I was saying. It is an insult to all the worthy people who do battle daily to protect and promote the interests and positions of the country. I want everyone to bear this in mind, and you will always see me react in this way if someone tries to insult the work of the Foreign Ministry and the people who work for our country’s interests.

Journalist: The intention might not be to insult anyone, but simply to express concern.

Mr. Droutsas: There is a way to express …

Journalist: Right. So I want to ask, is the casus belli among the other factors you bear in mind in determining Greece’s stance? The Madrid agreement, too?

Mr. Droutsas: Mr. Kokorikos, as hard as you try, you are not going to drag me in that direction. Greece is not impacted by any casus belli, by any threat. Greece has firm, very strong positions and – I want to say this, too – a strong deterrent capability. All this is clear. Please, let’s leave sensationalism aside. Once again, all of these issues require a comprehensive approach from Greece. This is exactly what is being done, through serious, systematic work.

Journalist: Mr. Droutsas, thank you very much. Good afternoon. Goodbye.

Mr. Droutsas: Thank you, Mr. Kokorikos. Good afternoon.

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