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Foreign Minister Lambrinidis’ speech on his visit to Gökçeada (Imvros) (12 August 2011)
Your All Holiness,
Your Most Reverend,
I am deeply moved to be here today.
The occasion that brings us all together today on the beautiful island of Gökçeada (Imbros) is the events being hosted by the islanders to honor one of their most prominent fellow citizens.
I, too, have come in humility and with profound respect to honor His All Holiness and to add my wishes – the wishes of all Greek people – to yours on this double anniversary.
This year, His All Holiness marks 50 years of priesthood – years of uninterrupted caring for his flock.
This year is also the 20th anniversary of his coming to the Ecumenical Throne as Patriarch.
You, Your All Holiness, know best of all that these years included days of both joy and pain, clear days and cloudy days, days of enthusiasm and optimism and days of anxiety and disappointment.
With your wisdom and inexhaustible love, you were not discouraged by the difficulties, but rose to the sacred duty that you have shouldered.
To many years, Your all Holiness.
But this double anniversary and the events you have organized were also an opportunity that I did not want to miss. I am deeply moved to be visiting Gökçeada, and I am please to have the opportunity to meet with its residents.
There have been problems and trials in the years that have passed. I am here to tell you that we are at your side and have not forgotten you.
Positive steps have been taken in recent years by Prime Minister Erdogan’s government.
The rapprochement between our two countries has contributed towards this; a rapprochement being carried out through cautious steps. We will continue this effort so that the improvement of the climate, which we firmly and consistently encourage, can translate into tangible results in major sectors of cooperation at the upcoming meeting of the Greek-Turkish High Level Cooperation Council, which will convene in the autumn.
Another contributing factor has been Turkey’s approach to the EU, which Greece firmly supports. Your future as Gökçeada Turkish citizens is in Europe. Turkey’s full accession to the European Union, after meeting all the relevant criteria, will be good for Greece, Turkey and our whole region. It will be good for our peoples.
The contacts of your representatives, your Associations and your Coordinating Body, with the Turkish government and local government can contribute to the further improvement of conditions and the resolution of your problems, which have been noted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, regarding property, educational and religious rights.
There is still much that has to be done. Your churches, the graves of your forebears, your property here – everything that constitutes our common memory in Gökçeada – have to be maintained and revitalized, as they are being revitalized today by the visits of so many Gökçeada émigrés to their beloved island.
Your All Holiness,
Your Most Reverend,
I would also like to direct my warmest greetings to those active Gökçeada émigrés. The efforts you have made and continue to make are admirable.
My Dear Friends,
I came here to pay tribute to all of you.
I came here to thank you for your presence.
I came here to honor, as much as I can, on behalf of the Greeks, the Ecumenical Patriarch and his work.
I came here, first and foremost, to once again convey a message of friendship and cooperation between the Greek and Turkish peoples.
This is our hope, this is the future, and this is what all of us are working towards and must continue to work towards.