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Foreign Minister N. Kotzias' interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency and journalist S. Aravopoulou

Monday, 13 March 2017

Foreign Minister N. Kotzias' interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency and journalist S. AravopoulouJOURNALIST: What resulted from the visits to Georgia and Armenia?
N. KOTZIAS: It was an important visit to the Caucasus, to two friendly countries, Georgia and Armenia. We agreed with both countries to further develop our political dialogue and the cooperation between respective ministries. We also agreed to expand our cooperation, especially on EU issues, and we agreed to offer our expertise to these countries.

JOURNALIST: Both countries are located in a geostrategic region of particular importance and with a number of problems ...
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, we considered the region's problems, we assessed the geostrategic situation, and we saw that we have a strong convergence of views and interests. We explored the potential for developing our economic cooperation, in terms of business and more generally. In particular with Armenia, we agreed to hold a business mission, late in 2017, with the aim of developing trade/business relations, because they are at a very low level.
As my interlocutors and I observed, while the emotional ties -- of history and tradition -- are very strong with these two countries, they are not reflected in our inter-state relations of recent years. Likewise, while we have a good political dialogue and frequent political meetings, our economic cooperation is not correspondingly strong.

JOURNALIST: What moves are you planning for the immediate future? What did you agree concerning the upgrading of our bilateral relations?
N. KOTZIAS: Given that there are a number of older agreements that are inactive, we agreed to create special committees that will study the legal texts of the agreements and assess which have been implemented and which have not. At the same time, we need to adopt measures for their implementation and decide which of these agreements are no longer needed because they are out of date, and what new agreements need to be concluded.
I also extended invitations to my counterparts to visit Greece, and I conveyed invitations from the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic for an exchange of visits.

JOURNALIST: Both of your counterparts stressed the strategic importance of your visit to their countries ...
N. KOTZIAS: What we agreed is that our partnership is not a simple partnership, but a strategic partnership. We agreed with Georgia and Armenia to develop types of trilateral cooperation schemes similar to those we have developed in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. We specifically discussed what other European country, apart from Greece, will participate in these trilateral cooperation schemes, and we also explored the extent to which we might create a quadrilateral cooperation scheme among these two countries and two EU countries.

JOURNALIST: What are you personal impressions from this mission?
N. KOTZIAS: I am very moved that we visited historic places, historic monuments of the two peoples. I admit that the visit to the museum of the Armenian genocide, in Yerevan, was especially moving, the documents and archival materials on exhibit were also very compelling.
I must tell you that this trip was a particular honour for me, not just in my capacity as Foreign Minister, but also in the capacity of university professor. The University of Tbilisi and the Department of Greek and Byzantine Studies organized an event at which I was the keynote speaker, and I was presented with an award by the University. In Yerevan I also delivered a lecture, to a packed hall, on issues in international politics, at the Department of International Studies, and I had the honour of being awarded an honorary doctorate, with all the commitments that entails.

JOURNALIST: How were your meetings with the spiritual leaders of the two countries?
N. KOTZIAS: We met with the Patriarch of the Orthodox Christians of Georgia and with the Armenian Catholic Patriarch. We talked about the Church's role in the current era and the importance of spirituality, and I invited them to participate in the International Conference on the protection of religious and cultural communities, which is taking place on 1 and 2 November of this year.

JOURNALIST: You attach great importance to culture as a link for political and economic cooperation. What kind of response did you get from your interlocutors?
N. KOTZIAS: Beyond religion, one feels Hellenism everywhere – ancient Hellenistic culture, Byzantium – as well as the current Greek reality in these two countries. This is why we talked with the two Foreign Ministers about the ways in which we will develop the cultural relations between the two countries. Because, as you know, I personally, along with the Foreign Ministry as a whole, put great emphasis on cultural diplomacy. This is why, at the end of April -- a month and a half from now -- we are holding the International Conference of the great ancient civilisations that continue to be relevant and influence humanity. Specifically, I am referring to these ten countries: China, India, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Bolivia and Peru. As I have agreed with my Chinese counterpart – together with whom we are inviting the others to Athens, in a joint letter – this will be an initiative also open to third countries.
I want to underscore that culture is a strong power in today's world: what we call soft power, or smart power as other schools of thought call it. But it isn't just one power, because with culture you influence and develop relations. Today, culture is an important economic power: what we call the industry of culture. So we have taken special measures on this, too, for the promotion of collaboration in the sector of culture, as in the sectors of education and research.

JOURNALIST: You have a busy schedule of meetings in the American capitol. Would you like to talk about that?
N. KOTZIAS: In Washington we have meetings with the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor, and other high-ranking members of the new administration. We also have a number of meetings with think tanks, with members of Congress, and interviews have also been scheduled.

JOURNALIST: What are Greece's relations with the new Trump administration?
N. KOTZIAS: I think we have firm relations with the current President's administration, and we have had a lot of meetings. I hope our relations develop further. We will talk about the region's problems and we will look at the degree to which our views and planning coincide. I also hope to be able to further promote the development of U.S.-Greek relations with other Ministers -- a vital element for our country and in our international relations.

JOURNALIST: You had already met with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn ...
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, after the Trump administration was sworn in, I met with the former National Security Advisor, Mr. Flynn. And on Tuesday, in Washington, I will meet for the first time with the new National Security Advisor, Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond McMaster.

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