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Foreign Ministry spokesman Delavekouras’s interview on NET FM
Journalist: In the news, we have the Greek Prime Minister’s visit to Turkey, the statements and counter-statements they made there, the pictures we saw. A picture is worth a thousand words, and so on, and is very substantial. I think there was also a lot of substance in these meetings. We’ll discuss it with Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras, who is on the line. Good morning, Mr. Delavekouras.
Mr. Delavekouras: Good morning, and good morning to your listeners.
Journalist: First of all, as the Greek side, are we satisfied with this visit?
Mr. Delavekouras: Look, compared to what we had scheduled, yes. That is, the Prime Minister had the opportunity to capitalize on an extremely symbolic move – addressing the Turkish ambassadors – to give content and substance and raise essentially all of the range of issues that are obstacles, as well as the clear vision of the Greek side for improvement of relations with Turkey; for normalization. I think the most important thing was the dilemma he posed between peace or conflict, and on this he gave the clear reply of the Greek side that we are pursuing and working for peace, while at the same time asking the Turkish side to respect the rights, the sovereignty of Greece.
Journalist: Right. On a visit, if we are to see whether we got anything from it, we have to know what our goals were before we went.
Mr. Delavekouras: First of all – and the Prime Minister said this in his speech – we have to stop treating Greek-Turkish relations as a zero-sum game. We have to stop thinking that the other side’s loss is our gain. We have to accept the reasoning that both countries have a lot to gain from cooperation. There is a great dynamic in Greek-Turkish relations. There are very serious problems – some from the past, some that are modern. But we have to confront them; we have to speak frankly and find solutions. For instance, one very important current issue is illegal migration, which was one of the main topics discussed by the two Prime Ministers.
Journalist: Let’s take them one at a time. Did the Turks agree on this? Because we know that this problem is focussed mainly on the Turkish side.
Mr. Delavekouras: Of course. All of the pressure Greece is bringing to bear on Europe comes from Turkey. Greece is in the middle, and right now has ended up being the destination: Due to the regulations that exist, in the end these people stay here, and this has to be dealt with. That is why we need better cooperation from Turkey and greater involvement of the European Union. This is an issue that until a short time ago, Turkey dealt with completely defensively. But we now saw that the Turkish Prime Minister, with the Greek Prime Minister next to him, acknowledged how right Greece is; acknowledged that this situation cannot go on and that cooperation is needed between the two countries.
Journalist: Right, so this means that …
Journalist: What does this mean in practical terms?
Mr. Delavekouras: We have already begun cooperation – it was something that the two Prime Ministers discussed when Mr. Erdogan came to the Mediterranean Climate Change Conference in Athens. We had some meetings on the technical level. There is now the possibility of meetings on the political level. But the most important thing is that we need good implementation of the existing readmission agreement. We need to conclude an EU-Turkey readmission agreement, and we need better cooperation on border management from the Turkish side, because better border control is needed from Turkey. I think the Turks understand this. The numbers speak for themselves. What we need is to get results, because as long as we don’t, we are sending the wrong message to traffickers, to the modern slave traders who are exploiting these people. We are sending them the message that the way is still open, and this has to stop.
Journalist: Apart from illegal migration, we have other pending issues with Turkey, regarding the Aegean. How are we resolving these issues right now – for example, the matter of the continental shelf?
Mr. Delavekouras: Before we go on to the issue of the continental shelf – we’ll go there, too – I want to focus on a specific result of this meeting, which is the holding of the second Greek-Turkish High-Level Cooperation Council. I remind you that the Turkish Prime Minister was in Athens this past May …
Journalist: With a large delegation.
Mr. Delavekouras: Exactly. He had at least 10 Ministers with him. We had agreements in many sectors, and this is a very important aspect of Greek-Turkish relations: this potential for cooperation, which can benefit the day-to-day lives of the citizens of both countries.
So now we agreed that Mr. Davutoglu with visit us in March in preparation for the 2nd High-Level Cooperation Council, which will take place in Turkey, in July. This is an important step in Greek-Turkish relations, because it gives us the opportunity to cooperate across a wide range of sectors. Now, regarding issues …
Journalist: Let’s go to the Aegean.
Mr. Delavekouras: Yes, of course. First of all, let’s start with the facts, and the fact is that …
Journalist: May I ask for a clarification?
Mr. Delavekouras: Please.
Journalist: Given that Mr. Papandreou said that we will have recourse to international justice for a judgement based on international law. International justice – because I saw some comments in newspapers, why didn’t he raise the issue of the International Court in The Hague?
Mr. Delavekouras: That’s it. In any case, Greece has said this repeatedly, and the Prime Minister reiterated Greece’s longstanding positions …
Journalist: So that’s what he meant?
Mr. Delavekouras: … that this discussion that has started with Turkey – the exploratory talks that are the precise framework within which the delimitation of the continental shelf is being discussed – cannot be a perpetual dialogue. We believe that we have to see results, and if we don’t succeed in seeing results through this discussion, then the two countries should have recourse to international justice. There is law. It is a very complex matter. Matters concerning the delimitation of maritime zones are essentially the most complicated in international relations and considerable complex. For exactly this reason, we believe that we need to resolve this legal difference. If we can’t get to the desired level in the exploratory talks, then, yes, we will need to appeal to international justice.
Journalist: Right. One scenario we have been hearing constantly of late, Mr. Delavekouras, is co-exploitation of the Aegean. Was that issue raised?
Mr. Delavekouras: No, there is no basis for that discussion, and it’s really surprising that this issue keeps coming back …
Journalist: There are political parties that push issues like that.
Mr. Delavekouras: Yes. Allow me not to go into the domestic political debate, but I will tell you there is no basis for this scenario. There is no basis when our relations have not, first of all, reached the level we want; when we have these contentions from Turkey. There is no basis. When maritime zones have not been delimited, how can you talk about co-exploitation?
Journalist: Does this mean that when relations have got to where they should be, we will be able to talk about co-exploitation of the Aegean?
Mr. Delavekouras: There is no issue of co-exploitation – that’s what I’m saying: that there is no such issue and I can’t see why it keeps coming up.
Mr. Delavekouras: There is no basis for it.
Journalist: Won’t we have problems as a country if we want to exploit some spot in the Aegean that’s ours, but that is currently being disputed by Turkey?
Mr. Delavekouras: If you want to resolve the delimitation issue, either the two countries have to come to an agreement, or we need a decision from the international court that we will implement.
Journalist: So we, too, are freezing all exploration …
Mr. Delavekouras: No, that’s not the case.
Journalist: It’s not the case?
Mr. Delavekouras: What we need to do is to delimit the maritime zones where they should be delimited, where the borders of the two countries meet. this needs to be done and it will be done, and it is very important for there to be political will from the governments of both countries for these steps to be taken.
Journalist: Right. Mr. Delavekouras, so far we have been accustomed to things being said during visits between Greek and Turkish Prime Ministers, but beyond that for the Ministries to be the ones setting the tone or saying various things. This time we saw that the Greek Prime Minister went and said some things straight out. Why did we change policy lines?
Mr. Delavekouras: We didn’t change policy lines. Greek-Turkish relations are entering a new phase, and this phase is a phase of sincerity and open dialogue. There is no point in sweeping problems under the carpet.
Journalist: No objection there.
Mr. Delavekouras: There are very serious issues …
Journalist: Do we have an understanding on this with the Turks?
Mr. Delavekouras: De facto. In our relations with Turkey – and I think this is a common observation and was apparent from the press conference the two Prime Ministers gave – we can no longer pretend that there are no problems or gloss over them or hide them. These are real problems that bear on day-to-day life. These flyovers touch the daily lives of Greek citizens on Agathonisi. That is precisely why the Prime Minister raised the issue in this framework.
Journalist: Is it true what was written about the meeting almost being cancelled at the last moment?
Journalist: Or that they were thinking of not having the meeting?
Mr. Delavekouras: You have to be aware that everything is taken into account – in foreign policy it is obvious that you take everything into account, you make your analysis and you take decisions. I stress the fact that the issue was raised by the Greek side in a very open and clear manner – both publicly, by the Prime Minister, in front of 200 Turkish Ambassadors and in the meetings the two PMs had, as well as before the trip by the Foreign Minister in two phone calls with his Turkish counterpart – and it was made clear that Greece does not tolerate such practices.
And you will ask, “We won’t see another flyover?”. No, we need to be prepared. I cannot rule out that we won’t see another flyover – in fact, it’s very probable that we will. But that is exactly why it needs to be clear that Greece is taking all these actions, which consolidate its national sovereignty; the Foreign and Defence Ministries take every action to defend our national sovereignty, and this needs to be clear. There can be no doubt.
Journalist: One last thing, Mr. Delavekouras. There is pressure in Turkey, via the Turkish opposition party, on Mr. Erdogan based on this meeting and on these statements. Does this worry you at all, as the Foreign Ministry, with regard to Turkey.
Mr. Delavekouras: Does it worry us?
Journalist: Does it worry you, should it worry us – I mean given that the Turks are in the run-up to elections, which means that there will probably be various kinds of pressure again, on the Greek side.
Mr. Delavekouras: Look, as I said before, everything is taken into account. the fact that Turkey is essentially entering a pre-election period unavoidably impacts everything. Beyond that, however, our relations with Turkey touch on essentially every sector. We have the exploratory talks that are moving ahead at a given pace, as mandated by the two Prime Ministers, and we have the High-Level Cooperation Council that we will continue to prepare. Greece needs to be prepared and ready at all times. Beyond that, however, I don’t expect we will have any dramatic change due to the Turkish elections.
Journalist: Right. Mr. Delavekouras, thank you very much for talking to us.
Mr. Delavekouras: I thank you. Take care.
Journalist: Take care.