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Foreign Minister Lambrinidis’s reply to a question in Parliament from LAOS MP Velopoulos (6 October 2011)

Thursday, 06 October 2011

Mr. Lambrinidis: Mr. MP, I came prepared to answer a specific question, and unfortunately your opening statement had almost nothing to do with that question. But allow me – because you used some very heavy phrasing – to announce to you, with data, something that you should all know, I imagine: That Greece has – for the first time in its history – issued invitations for the expression of interest in exploration for petroleum in the Ionian and southern Crete. For the first time, the Parliament recently passed a law creating an agency that did not exist in Greece; an agency for the exploitation of hydrocarbons. So I would ask you to be a little careful how you express yourselves in Parliament.

Now, regarding your question, the Eastern Mediterranean region is going through a very turbulent time. We all know this. Due to dramatic developments resulting from the Arab Spring, due to the fluidity of the situation in the Middle East, due to the situation in Syria, which is a potential threat to the stability of its immediate neighbourhood, in addition to the killing taking place within the country, of course.

In this environment, Turkey has proceeded to statements and actions that exacerbate the climate. The recent actions and statements from Turkey – regarding the Republic of Cyprus’s exercising of its sovereign right to move ahead to exploitation of its natural wealth – obviously conflict with international law, undermine the stability of the wider region, and give rise to great concern.

Turkey, Mr. MP, is trying to militarize the discussion – there is no doubt – precisely because it does not have any arguments. But we have stood up to these reactions from Ankara from the very outset, pointing to the need to respect international law; a flag, if you will, of Greek foreign policy. And not just a flag of convenience or of weakness. A flag of the power of international agreements and international legality. As the EU, the U.S., Russia and other countries we have talked to have already said, the Turkish threats and actions of recent weeks must stop.

The government of the Republic of Cyprus is the only legitimate representative on the island, and it is exercising its right, based on international law, to conclude international agreements and exploit sources of wealth. In this context, the so-called “agreement” you referred to between Turkey and occupied Cyprus is void and naturally without content. And it is not just we who are saying this. The international community is saying it, and it is saying it after our meetings on this issue.

The Prime Minister himself, in his talk last week with Mr. Erdogan – and I myself in my talks with my Turkish counterpart, in New York – stressed to the Turkish side that it needs to desist from threats and actions that provoke tension, that violate international law and sovereign rights. We stressed that the road of tensions is the wrong road and a dangerous road, and we stressed this – I did, personally – not just to the Turks, but to everyone we talked to in New York.

The Foreign Ministry is obviously monitoring and evaluating developments carefully and constantly, and we are in ongoing communication with the Republic of Cyprus. Within this framework I am in ongoing contact with my Cypriot counterpart on the movements of the Piri Reis. And, of course, in each and every case our competent authorities report Turkish violations within our country’s area of jurisdiction and proceed to the necessary actions immediately, stopping the violations.

These issues are raised in an ongoing manner within the framework of the European Union and in the context of Turkey’s accession negotiation process. And obviously, at every appropriate opportunity we bring this to the attention of international fora, and we do it successfully. It needs to be clear to everyone – and this is our firm message to Turkey – that conduct of the kind we have seen recently is not acceptable and is an obstacle to cooperation and the European perspective of Turkey itself.

Greece wants to have good relations with Turkey. We believe that it is in our mutual interest. But we believe that it is obvious that these relations can develop only in an environment of respect for international law and for the sovereign rights of each side. No move made by Turkey that is incompatible with this – with respect for international law and for the sovereign rights of each side – goes unanswered; no move whatsoever. We have the composure and resolve to defend our sovereign rights without allowing Turkey to set the pace of these developments.

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