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Joint Statements of Foreign Minister Kotzias and the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus, I. Kasoulides, following their meeting (Athens, 12 June 2015)
N. KOTZIAS: Good day. I know that Friday afternoon is difficult for reporters: You have to write your articles for the weekend.
As I also said in the bilateral meeting we had, I am always moved when I meet with the Cypriot delegation, and I am particularly moved today because I am meeting with my friend Ioannis Kasoulides, and because this is the first time I am officially welcoming the Cypriot delegation to Greece and to our Ministry.
For a person who as a pupil, still in junior high school, not even high school, protested and took a beating for the Cyprus issue, it is very moving to be able to welcome the Cypriot delegation to our Ministry.
Mr. Minister, welcome. Thank you very much for the collaboration we always have.
The Minister and I discussed – What else? First of all the Cyprus issue. We exchanged our thoughts. We support, with all of the capabilities at our disposal and all our power, the Cypriot government in these negotiations and wherever we can we assist its actions and activities.
You know that, based on the Zurich Treaty and Agreement, Greece is a guarantor power of Cyprus. But we also know that the guarantor powers, Greece, on the one hand, was involved, against the will of its people, in the coup in Cyprus, while Britain looked on as the Turkish army carried out its shameful operation in Cyprus.
We know that the Turkish army has not just occupied northern Cyprus. It is a force that currently has one soldier for every two Turkish Cypriots, and I’m not including the settlers, but the Turkish Cypriots, half of whom have been forced to move abroad. So whom is this force protecting? Those who have left?
We know that the provisions, even the provisions of the Zurich Agreement, were that the guarantor power, following deliberations that did not take place, takes care to restore order. That is, the return of Archbishop Makarios as the President of Cyprus. And then the guarantor power leaves. And instead of this, we saw an occupation and continued presence.
That is why we, as a power that the Zurich agreements designate as playing the role of guarantor power, do not want the continuation of such a role, even legally, institutionally, as a provision, because we believe that Cyprus, following creative negotiations and following a good agreement, should be an equal member state of the European Union, with all the guarantees provided by the European Union for communities, individual groups, the everyday person in its member states.
Because we believe that Cyprus must be a single state, federal, bizonal on a community basis, bound by all the international and European laws, its democratic nature and its territorial integrity, and because we believe that Cyprus must be a member state with all the rights and sovereignty that every other member state has within the framework of the European Union.
And from this perspective I have often stated this position; I stated it the day before yesterday, in the UK, and I reiterate it today.
The Minister and I were also able to discuss the region’s problems. Cyprus and Greece are two states that, with great responsibility, contribute to the greatest possible stabilization and security in our region, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
And in this context we have developed trilateral cooperation. Cyprus-Greece-Egypt, Cyprus-Greece-Israel, and we have considered both the further deepening of these cooperation frameworks as well as the formation of additional cooperation configurations.
We also talked about issues that have to do in particular with the developments in the Middle East. The developments in Syria, the developments in and importance of Egypt. And we also talked about Turkey’s EU accession process, the terms and prerequisites set by the European Union and European law for Turkey.
Finally, we talked about the developments in the Balkans. I had the pleasure and honor of setting out for my friend the Minister the thoughts we have currently formulated at the Foreign Ministry for a vision we have and a solution-oriented outlook on the problems in the Balkans.
We and Cyprus are linked by ties of visions, dreams, a shared perception of the role of international law and faith in international law. We are linked by history, our culture, a sense of equity for the world on which the 21st century dawned.
It is a great pleasure, as the Foreign Minister and personally, as Nikos Kotzias, to talk today with the Foreign Minister of Cyprus, and I am moved and happy that we creatively exchanged thoughts and will continue to creatively exchange thoughts.
Welcome, Mr. Minister.
I. KASOULIDES: Thank you very much. Thank you, Nikos, thank you Mr. Minister. The sentiments just now expressed by the Foreign Ministry of Greece are similar to my own sentiments each time I am on an official, let’s call it working, visit to Athens. This is not the first meeting Mr. Kotzias and I have had since he took office as Foreign Minister. It might be the tenth, of which three were visits on his part to Cyprus, but it was an opportunity to talk, together with our associates, about a number of issues beyond the Cyprus issue; issues of special interest both within the European Union and in our neighbourhood and the Balkan region.
Regarding the Balkan region, our guide is Greek foreign policy, which we want to coincide and conform with our own. There are also the various European issues. The major issue we are facing today in the Mediterranean is the migration waves and how we can contribute to mitigating them.
I state from this platform that Cyprus is inclined to fully accept Commissioner Avramopoulos’ proposal on this issue and will announce it to the EU organs during the upcoming meetings.
I want to come to the Cyprus issue. First of all to inform you, as I have informed the Minister, that the climate in which the negotiations are reopening for the solution is very, very good. This is due to the fact that the result of the elections in the Turkish Cypriot community was a result of desire for, and in the direction of, a common vision of a common state, a Cypriot state, rather than in the direction of assimilation by Turkey.
And we have received this message and we need to respond to this message with our own willingness to move ahead, without wasting any time, with the effort to seek a solution to the Cyprus problem.
I want to voice my agreement with and support for the positions expressed by the Foreign Minister of Greece with regard to the issue of guarantees. A real state, a member of the United Nations, has to function in such a way as not to need guardians.
What is needed is a security system in which the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots feel equally secure. We are prepared to look at this. But Mr. Kotzias’ historical retrospective of what was provided and, in contrast, how much damage the guarantor agreements did is crystal clear.
We are not saying that we are endeavoring not to comply with everything that is agreed upon in the agreement, and that that is why we do not want guarantees, as the Turkish Foreign Minister said to us. Besides, when you are in the European Union, every member state is called to task by the European Union itself when it does not obey the rules of the legal order.
But we, in turn, do not understand why they need to insist on maintaining the guarantor treaties, with the same logical question – Do they perhaps want them to be perpetuated? – since they ask us these types of questions.
In any case, I believe that the settlement of the security issue in a way that makes Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots feel equally secure will be the key to any future referendum in which the Cypriot people are called upon to approve any solution.
Certainly, there is another very serious issue. Cyprus, as a member of the European Union, provides all of the guarantees to the Turkish Cypriot community so it needn’t worry, but there is also the need for the Cypriot state to function, to be able to function as a member state of the European Union, within the Union’s institutions and for the good of Cyprus itself, as well as for the good of the European Union.
The mechanisms should not be so complicated that a decision cannot be made at the European Council at two in the morning, until such time as the Cypriot mechanisms move, if these mechanisms are complicated as to the manner in which decisions are made.
I would like to express my optimism about these negotiations. The negotiators are currently working for hours, the meetings are very frequent and long. They will present to the leaders, on 17 June, an overall picture of all the aspects – where we agree, where we disagree – so that negotiation can begin on everything on which we disagree, certainly. It will become clear in the coming months how we are moving ahead and what results we are producing.
K. KOUTRAS: Your questions, please, Mr. Botonis, from ERT, has the floor.
N. KOTZIAS: It is pleasing to hear the word “ERT”, and I must note this. This is the first time since I became a Minister that a question has been asked by ERT, which is already functioning, and I would like to congratulate you on the work you are doing.
D. BOTONIS (ERT): And we are in the pleasant position of fulfilling this duty, Mr. Minister.
N. KOTZIAS: I’m very pleased.
D. BOTONIS (ERT): I want to ask this: How optimistic are you, Mr. Minister, given that there are developments in Turkey? There is a political instability that may have a negative impact, and we have seen this written starkly of late. Does this concern you?
I. KASOULIDES: I too would like to express my pleasure at my first answer’s being given to ERT, and I wish you all the best.
Yes, we are concerned at the result of the Turkish elections. We are concerned at the instability. We have discussed and assessed the various probabilities with Mr. Kotzias in our talks today. There are negatives, but some positives may come out of this as well, but let’s leave it at that.
S. ARAVOPOULOU (ATHENS PRESS AGENCY): Mr. Minister, will these talks also be connected with the issue of gas and the EEZ?
I. KASOULIDES: President Anastasiades has voiced his commitment that, when it is certain that we are moving ahead to a solution of the Cyprus problem – that is, when the negotiations reach that final point where a solution is certain – there are issues deriving from the Christofias-Talat and Christofias-Eroglu convergences on the issue, which we accepted fully as regards energy, and which we will discuss.
C. MICHAELIDES: (CYPRIOT NEWS AGENCY): Since the guarantor powers came up in the conversation and you were recently in the United Kingdom, has Britain taken a stance that you can reveal to us regarding the course or probability of the opening of the negotiations?
And if it is agreed that there should no longer be guarantor powers, will the presence of the British in Cyprus – I mean the British bases – be impacted at all by the new Cypriot State that arises.
N. KOTZIAS: Let me say this: We are working with all of the member states of the Security Council, we are explaining our view and position; both I, personally, as well as our Ambassadors in these five countries.
I hope and believe that there will be pragmatism for a real solution of the Cyprus problem, and, as I say, that it won’t be a make-believe or virtual solution that will maintain the previous situation.
I think that, to the extent that everyone is interested in a real solution, in the end they will accept the need for Cyprus to be truly independent in the way all of the EU member states are independent, with correspondingly full sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The issue of the relations of the other member states of the Security Council with Cyprus does not bear on the matter of abolishing the role of the guarantor powers and the departure of occupation troops from Cyprus.
I also want to clarify once again that, for me, personally – and we have discussed this from the outset with the Foreign Minister of Cyprus – the problem of the Turkish occupation troops in northern Cyprus is not “simply” the issue that they seized territory, but that a portion of the Cypriot population, the Turkish Cypriots, had the Turkish army before them constantly, and at a ratio of 1 to 4, if you include the settlers, but the essence is 1 to 2, one soldier for every two remaining Turkish Cypriot citizens.
The Turkish Cypriot citizens are citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, and they also suffered – whatever is said – from the presence of this army. Just as it isn’t pleasant, when you open your window in a number of populated areas and villages in free Cyprus, to see Turkish flags, however small, across from you on hills and mountains.
This is why we insist that rights and the potential for participation be given to the Turkish Cypriot community to the greatest possible extent, and I underscore this, and, at the same time, that a sense of security be given to the Turkish Cypriots and especially to the Greek Cypriots.
This is something that is the case in every region of the world, and I take this opportunity to tell you that I want to underscore that the Turkish Cypriots, who were not living under a literally democratic regime, also suffered. You don’t need to have one soldier for every citizen to feel good – the opposite, I would say.
I. KASOULIDES: On what the Minister said about 1 to 2, I remind you that the then UN Secretary General, Boutros-Ghali, in his report to the Security Council, called “northern Cyprus” the most militarized region in the world, due to this ratio of residents to troops.
Now, regarding your question, first we have to make it clear that British bases are one thing, and Britain’s participation in a treaty of guarantees is another. They are two different things. That’s one. And the second is that, from what I can see, Britain is ready to accept any security system that we agree on in Cyprus.
K. FRYSSA (ERT): Hello. My question is for both of you. You talked about the migration issue. Whether there is joint action, whether you decided to jointly confront the major problem of illegal migration.
N. KOTZIAS: The two states agree that we should confront the migration problem within the framework of the European Union. Also fundamentally, on the basic issues, they agree with the proposals put forward by Commissioner Avramopoulos, which concern quotas for residency of refugees and those applying for asylum, and a number of other measures.
Cyprus is lucky, geographically, I would say, in that it doesn’t have major roadways, railways or intensive coastal navigation, which would give some refugees the illusion that they can reach the rest of Western Europe by getting into Cyprus.
As you know, the Greek problem is that we have become a black box, a black box to which they come in the hope that, via the means of transport that exist (railways, ships, roadways, etc.) they will get into central and northern Europe, but the treaties of Schengen and Dublin II and, potentially, III, keep them out, with the result that – given that the readmission treaty with Turkey is not being implemented; that agreement is being violated too – we have many refugees and applicants for asylum in Greece, we have many migrants, those whom we call illegal migrants, and the problem is growing at a time when Greece is in the midst of a major crisis.
But you are well aware that the political leadership of Cyprus is a profoundly logical leadership and sees that, while currently protected, to a degree, geographically from the major crises in the region, about which all of us are concerned, if the European Union as a whole and its policy isn’t logical, there could be equal repercussions for Cyprus.
And I say “logical” because, as I explained in Britain, from where I returned late last night, Europe is worried about the refugees that are coming, about the 6 million Libyans, but it doesn’t seem to have realized the need for stability in Egypt, which has a population of 95 million, of which 2/3 are young, and beyond
Egypt there is a civil war in Sudan and a Somalia without normal state structures.
And that is why, regardless of the nature of the regime in Egypt, we want to take care that there is stability and security in that region.
And of course I remind you that we have a major refugee problem in Syria, where we have a population of 12 million on the move; Afghanistan and Pakistan and the routes that bring them to our country.
I hope there is logic – so that we can contribute to the stabilization of the region – and humanism, so that the people seeking a better future in third countries don’t suffer more. Security and stability policy must be combined in a democratic manner for confronting the problems with a deep sense of humanism.
We mustn’t forget the one or the other.
I. KASOULIDES: I just want to say, by way of corroboration, something that we say in Greek: A holiday in Italy and Greece takes place on the eve of ours, in Cyprus – that is, Cyprus’ solidarity, European solidarity, will be proven on this issue.
There is a proposal from Commissioner Avramopoulos that has determined, in our opinion, in a very, very fair manner, the criteria for the quotas of each member state in this fair distribution of taking in and hosting migrants. These criteria are based on each country’s GDP, each country’s population, the number of migrants already being accommodated, and I believe that the unemployment rate of each country, with all of these, are fair criteria that can make for fair distribution. We are prepared, if the 28 agree, to take on our share.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, Mr. Kotzias, I take the opportunity of the negotiations, for us to go to the negotiations taking place in Brussels. These are tough negotiations between Greece and the institutions, the lenders. The pressure is great, the hours critical for our country. How optimistic are you that this agreement will be reached, given that the framework of these negotiations is fluctuating between hot and cold, and that of late they have been putting unbearable pressure on us with ultimatums. Thank you.
N. KOTZIAS: As you know, I don’t publicly talk about or comment on the negotiations that are taking place. And it would be very bad for a Foreign Minister to break such a rule.
I will just make two comments. You know that what is written publicly, said on the radio or broadcast on television is part of the negotiations. There is a major international assault in the mass news media, as an element of negotiation, to exert pressure. I would request that the Greek news media not indiscriminately propagate positions and views disseminated via mass media as a tool for exerting pressure on Greece.
And the second, you should know that for this, too, in the most difficult moment, I always have a smile, or at least hope in my eyes, because I am ruled by a philosophy, as I have called it since I was a young child, of historical optimism. I think that we must always believe that what is just and good can find a way to win. Thank you.
I. KASOULIDES: I too would like to violate the principle of Foreign Ministers’ not commenting and express our ardent wish for a positive outcome from Greece’s efforts. Because this is to the benefit of Greece, of the Greek people, and of Europe and Cyprus.
N. KOTZIAS: I can only thank you.