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Foreign Minister N. Kotzias' interview in Real News, with journalist V. Skouris

Sunday, 07 May 2017

Foreign Minister N. Kotzias' interview in  Real News, with journalist V. SkourisJOURNALIST: How do you see Turkey's stance following the referendum and, mainly, of late, Mr. Minister?

N. KOTZIAS: Turkey is a restless and revisionist power. It often expresses itself as wanting to change part of the international agreements or as not accepting international law. Its current leadership, which contributed decisively to shaping the Turkey we see today, seems at this time to have been caught between a sense of insecurity and fear, on the one hand, and an unjustified sense of superiority and arrogance. This contradictory mix always has to be handled carefully so that one doesn't get carried away in the 'easy current' of things. One has to endeavour to find channels of communication, trust, respect for the other side's particularities. And wherever and whenever needed, to be stern.

JOURNALIST: Are you worried about a “hot incident” in the Aegean?

N. KOTZIAS: I am more worried about some accident caused by the risks taken and provocations made by the other side.

JOURNALIST: And in Cyprus? Ankara is making threats ahead of the tapping of deposits.

N. KOTZIAS: The Cypriot government has taken its measures. The international community is monitoring closely. We are at the disposal of the Republic of Cyprus for any assistance it may need. Ankara is resorting to intimidation on the deposits issue. But one can fall victim to intimidation only if one lacks strength.

JOURNALIST: Turkish officials say Agathonisi isn't Greek, while Erdogan regularly disputes the Treaty of Lausanne. How will this matter be dealt with? Is recourse to The Hague a solution?

N. KOTZIAS: Following the failed coup, the government and opposition in Turkey have entered into a dead-end nationalist bidding war. Meanwhile, we are taking the necessary diplomatic and defensive measures. It would be good if our neighbours stopped questioning international law and international agreements. Greece is neither a 'devastated country' nor 'an easy target'. And it is better for them to accept the realities of the situation and return to a productive dialogue.

JOURNALIST: Does Greece support Turkey's European perspective, and on what terms? And how do you respond to the European powers that are calling for an end to the negotiations?

N. KOTZIAS: The best prospect for Greek-Turkish relations is a European democratic Turkey that respects international law and the principle of good neighbourly relations. A Turkey with which we will develop maximum cooperation in all fields. This is our policy of principles, and it is also the desire of the majority of Turkish citizens.

The powers that want to end the negotiations on Turkey's European perspective are often those who, in all other sectors, make concessions "to the necessary ally". What we say is very clear: We want a European Turkey. It is up to Turkey to decide whether or not it wants to be European.

JOURNALIST: How much can Greece put up with in the Aegean, Mr. Minister? Could we see wind blowing flags away again, like we did in Imia?

N. KOTZIAS: I'm not a meteorologist, Mr. Skouris. I have made clear our positive initiatives regarding our neighbour, as well as our red lines. The wind can't blow away the latter.

JOURNALIST: Do you see resolution of the Cyprus issue? Do you agree with those who believe that the best possible goal right now is simply for the negotiations to continue?

N. KOTZIAS: I want the Cyprus issue to be resolved. What I persist in doing is underscoring – on the basis of the resolutions of the UN General Assembly and Security Council, regarding the international dimension of the Cyprus problem – is that it is a problem of occupation. From this perspective – a perspective on which Greece has a say – resolution of the Cyprus issue means an end to the occupation and the system of guarantees, elimination of any potential for a third country to invade Cyprus, to have rights of intervention in general.

JOURNALIST: Is Eide working as a 'broker' for the other side?

N. KOTZIAS: Eide argues that a kind of four freedoms can also be implemented for the Turks in Cyprus. To prove this, he invoked a number of inapt examples, such as Russia's agreement regarding Kaliningrad. In fact, the agreement concerns Russians' being able to transit between the Russian mainland and Kaliningrad. Cyprus certainly bears no relation to such a case, because it is neither a Turkish transit zone nor Turkish territory. Dissimilar things are being muddled together here in order to justify a misguided demand from the other side. And, in fact, he is trying to rationalize these misguided demands for the EU leadership. But that's not his job. Finally, allow me to express my bewilderment – to put it politely – that there are those who, in order to justify his actions, consciously make the false claim that we had "come close to a solution."

JOURNALIST: Is a rearrangement of the borders in the Balkans considered likely? Must it be avoided? And what foreign powers play a role in this direction?

N. KOTZIAS: Anyone who plays with fire – and lots of people need to be reminded of this – gets burnt in the end. We will not tolerate anyone's raising any issue of borders. Together with our European partners, we condemn anyone who might have such aspirations.

JOURNALIST: Do you foresee and inter-ethnic clash in Skopje? What needs to be done to avert such an eventuality? And how can Greece contribute?

N. KOTZIAS: We are the only country that doesn't interfere in our neighbour's domestic affairs, and yet there are those who want to create an atmosphere of suspicion. We are concerned at the lack of a culture of consensus and compromise in our neighbouring country. We want democracy and the rule of law to function there. We produce a policy of stability in the region, and we are trying to support the stability structures in the region.

JOURNALIST: There are persistent reports that – in order to deal with the tension in Skopje – Berlin and Paris will lower the bar for FYROM's accession to the EU. And that they will exert pressure on Athens.

N. KOTZIAS: I don't know who wants to exert pressure on whom, but everyone knows that we can't be pressured and we won't back down on what we believe to be right for the interests of our people and for European principles and values.

JOURNALIST: Does the possibility of a 'Greater Albania' in the Balkans worry you? In your opinion, what powers are fuelling this possibility?

N. KOTZIAS: There are those who dream of 'pseudo-greatness' ... But we and the EU will not allow it. The borders in Europe are definitive, and anyone who tries to tamper with them will face major and serious consequences.

JOURNALIST: Edi Rama argues that Greece is one of the countries participating in the destabilisation of Albania. How do you respond to that? And what shape are Greek-Albanian relations in?

N. KOTZIAS: I haven't heard anyone in the Albanian government say anything like that, and they couldn't.

Albania joined NATO and embarked on its European course with Greece's support. And in fact we got nothing in exchange, which was a mistake.

Today, Albania knows that the path to Europe runs through judicial reform, combating organized crime and drug trafficking, protection of the rights of the Greek National Minority. This path is a path of stability. The overcoming of any instability within Albania requires further consolidation of democracy and the culture of compromise.

JOURNALIST: The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) warns that there will be a war in the region. Do you see that happening?

N. KOTZIAS: My job is to avert such eventualities and ensure that the country stays out of them. It isn't to passively record them. For two and a half years now, I have been talking about the triangle of instability in which our country is enveloped (Ukraine, Libya, Middle East), and, as the Foreign Ministry, we have oriented ourselves toward creating mechanisms – networks of stability and security (such as the five trilateral cooperation schemes, the three quadrilateral cooperation schemes, the Arab-European conference in Rhodes later this month).

JOURNALIST: By general admission, the situation is difficult. How should Greece react? Does it need to increase its defence spending?

N. KOTZIAS: The more difficult a situation is, the less one should talk – so that one can think more and plan. Be sober and clear-headed. Study the situation and patiently promote the necessary choices. It is also my job, in the most difficult situations, to find channels of communication with the other sides, to steadily and persistently use and capitalize on the means of diplomacy.

JOURNALIST: There are those who accuse you of being 'tough' or, more or less, of being a 'nationalist'. How do you respond to them?

N. KOTZIAS: To those who want to give up without a fight, it seems strange that there are those who don't. Anyone who sees Turkish chauvinism as a just cause recognizes his enemy in Greek patriotism. It is to be expected that anyone who is a quisling or cherry-picker would be irritated by this. What is impressive about some people's amorality is that they justify the occupation of Cyprus in a variety of ways. That they want Cyprus to be a second-class member state of the EU, while they protest because Greece is not voiceless at the UN, is not a second-class member of that organization. Of course, the essence remains the same: over 90% of the Cypriot people agree with the positions I have stated regarding the international aspect of the Cyprus problem.

JOURNALIST: How are your relations with Panos Kammenos? And why do you think the Defence Minister is the target of so many attacks?

N. KOTZIAS: The Foreign Ministry has diplomacy and negotiation as means of action. The Defence Ministry has defence. We are both doing our jobs. Panos comes under attack because he draws a large following from the 'pro-Karamanlis' side of New Democracy, thus stymieing any chance of victory for the latter. That drives some people mad.

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