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Statements of Foreign Minister Lambrinidis and the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus, Ms. Kozakou-Markoulli, following their meeting

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Statements of Foreign Minister Lambrinidis and the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus, Ms. Kozakou-Markoulli, following their meeting

Highlights of Mr. Lambrinidis’ statements:

  • “Greek-Cypriot cooperation and coordination in all sectors is a cornerstone of government policy. The finding of a comprehensive, agreed-upon, functional and viable solution to the Cyprus problem within the framework of the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the reality of Cyprus as a member state of the European Union remains a top priority for Greece.”

  • “Turkey has recently escalated its threats against Cyprus, reacting to Cyprus’s self-evident sovereign right to exploit its natural wealth. Rather than trying to justify its illegal actions, invoking treaties and conventions the provisions of which it repeatedly violates, or is not a party to, Turkey needs to show in action that it respects international law and order. Rather than threatening to take measures to defend its alleged legal interests, Turkey needs to realize that this rhetoric will fall into the void. Turkey needs to adopt the Convention on the Law of the Sea, as hundreds of countries have done, and, at long last, to free up the negotiations on the resolution of the Cyprus problem.”

[in response to a question regarding a book on the exploratory contacts by a former employee of the Turkish Foreign Ministry]

  • “No Greek government has ever made such an agreement with Turkey. International law gives Greece the right to extend its territorial waters, whenever and however Greece sees fit, and all the governments of Greece throughout the years have stated that this right exists unswervingly.”

Full transcript of the statements (translation):

Mr. Lambrinidis: It is a particular pleasure and honor for me to welcome to Athens Ms. Erato Markoulli, who is carrying out her first visit abroad since taking up her new duties. Likewise, my first visit after taking up my duties was to Cyprus.

Erato, your visit underscores the symbolism of our fraternal relationship, but also has very substantial content, because we are facing major challenges. We began our discussion, and we will continue it at our luncheon, on the developments on the Cyprus issue, EU-Turkish relations, preparations for the Cypriot EU Presidency, energy issues and many other matters bearing on our region, including developments in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as economic issues, which are burning issues throughout Europe.

Erato, the tragedy that hit Cyprus on 11 July was huge, and I want you to know that we were with you in mourning the brave men who were lost and the disaster suffered by Cyprus and their families. At the opportunity of your visit, I once again send a message to the Cypriot people: that Greece will be at your side with all its power until you are firmly back on your feet following this tragedy. The Cypriot people have proven their great fortitude and I am certain they will succeed – united and resolute – in rebuilding what was destroyed and making their homeland even stronger.

Greek-Cypriot cooperation and coordination in all sectors is a cornerstone of government policy. The finding of a comprehensive, agreed-upon, functional and viable solution to the Cyprus problem within the framework of the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the reality of Cyprus as a member state of the European Union remains a top priority for Greece. We will continue to actively support the Republic of Cyprus, Erato, as you know, and the negotiation effort of President Christofias.

The recent inflammatory statements from the Turkish political leadership unfortunately do not allow for particular optimism for the coming months. They show once again that the essence of the Cyprus problem is the ongoing occupation of half of Cyprus by Turkey. They show that Turkey continues to refuse to comply with international legality, with the appeals of the UN Secretary General, whose good offices Greece supports, just as it refuses to meet its obligations to the European Union. Unfortunately, Turkey has recently escalated its threats against Cyprus, reacting to Cyprus’s self-evident sovereign right to exploit its natural wealth. The Greek Foreign Ministry, as you know, reacted instantly in both cases with its own very clear statements.

My dear Erato, rather than trying to justify its illegal actions, invoking treaties and conventions the provisions of which it repeatedly violates, or is not a party to, Turkey needs to show in action that its respects international law and order. Rather than threatening to take measures to defend its alleged legal interests, Turkey needs to realize that this rhetoric will fall into the void. Turkey needs to adopt the Convention on the Law of the Sea, as hundreds of countries have done, and, at long last, to free up the negotiations on the resolution of the Cyprus problem.

Erato and I will continue our discussion, looking at all of these issues in depth so that we can optimize the coordination of our actions and the charting of policy that will allow us to respond jointly to the major challenges we have before us.

Erato, I want you to know that in your difficult task you will always have Greece at your side, and me, personally. Congratulations on your new duties and welcome to Athens.

Ms. Markoulli: Thank you very much, Minister, my good friend. It is a great pleasure to be here in Athens today, on my first visit. And the first phone call I got was from you, and this is indicative of the fraternal relationship that exists between our two countries, the two governments and peoples of Cyprus and Greece. We really do have huge challenges ahead of us as countries, and I am sure that through very close cooperation, which I look forward to, we will be able to overcome the many and major problems we will be dealing with in the coming months.

First of all, I would like to express on behalf of the government and the people of Cyprus our deep gratitude for the unwavering support we got from the Greek government and Greek people in the tragedy that recently struck Cyprus and that had major consequences in terms of human lives, but was also a major blow to the Cypriot economy. And at this critical moment, despite its own difficult economic situation, Greece was the first to help, and we are truly grateful for this help.

In the short time we had, we had the opportunity to touch on various issues that we will be dealing with in the coming months, particularly as regards the Cyprus issue and what you mentioned earlier about the provocative and threatening statements of the Turkish Foreign Minister and the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which is a very serious issue that we have already requested be included in the agenda for the next informal meeting of Foreign Ministers in Poland, in early September, and it is there that we hope to have the solidarity – which is very important – of our partners in the European Union. Because any move against a member state of the European Union is and should be perceived as a move against the interests of the European Union itself.

That is why I look forward to our very close cooperation in the coming weeks, so that we can confront this provocative conduct on the part of Turkey. There are many other issues as well, international issues, in our immediate geographical space and further afield, and there is also the major challenge of Cyprus’s EU Presidency. On that, too, we look forward to cooperating with the Greek Foreign Ministry, with the Greek experts, because Greece, with its vast experience over the years as a member, will certainly be able to assist in our efforts to have a successful EU Presidency. It would be a pleasure to have you in Cyprus soon so that we can continue our cooperation.

Journalist: I want to ask you, Mr. Minister, whether you have any comment on the article in the Turkish daily Sabah, based on a book by a former diplomat and former MP, a Mr. Bulukbasi, claiming that Greece had at some point accepted in the exploratory contacts to withdraw from its right to extend territorial waters to 12 nautical miles.

Mr. Lambrinidis: Mr. Fourlis, I don’t think it’s worth commenting on articles or on the claims of persons whose politics and motives are well known. But allow me to take this opportunity to clarify a few things, because I suspect we will see this reheated dish resurfacing from time to time.

First of all, no Greek government has ever made such an agreement with Turkey. Second, international law gives Greece the right to extend its territorial waters, whenever and however Greece sees fit, and all the governments of Greece throughout the years have stated that this right exists unswervingly. Third, the exploratory contacts have been taking place, as you know, since 2002 so that we can see whether there is common ground for a discussion, for negotiations and an agreement on the continental shelf.

Greece has stated expressly and repeatedly that it respects the confidentiality of these talks and that if they do not lead to some result, the right solution is for us to go to the International Court in The Hague.

Fourth, it is my belief that whoever sits in the Foreign Minister’s chair, the Defence Ministers chair, not to mention the Prime Minister’s chair, is there to serve the interests of Greece.

I will not stand for anyone questioning the patriotism of any party, prime minister or minister of this country. When all of the Greek governments – Pasok and New Democracy – have repeatedly denied the truth of this type of propaganda from Turkey, I think it is a big mistake for someone to reheat this and serve it up again.

Fifth, and last, I have stated from my first day in office that in foreign policy all of the political parties in Greece must form a single fist. That is where our strength lies. It is a big mistake for anyone in Greece to adopt articles, rumors or theories that have repeatedly been refuted, and I hope this stops here and now.

Journalist: Congratulations, Madam Minister, on your new duties. I wanted to ask you this: For two or three years now, surveys in Cyprus have repeatedly found that the vast majority of Cypriot citizens – 70 to 80 percent – disagree with most of the politicians in Cyprus. Given the obvious importance of the issue, is your government considering taking any initiatives to bring the negotiating positions into line with popular will?

Ms. Markoulli: The President of the Republic of Cyprus, who is also the leader of the Greek Cypriot community at the negotiations, bases our side’s positions of the resolutions of the UN, which talk clearly about the framework for the solution to the Cyprus issue, which is a single state, a single sovereignty, a single international personality and a single citizenship that will be a bizonal, bicommunal federation, with political equality as described in the UN resolutions.

It is within this framework and on this basis that the President of the Republic of Cyprus has submitted the positions of the Greek Cypriot side during the negotiations. I can assure you that these positions are based on international law and ensure the legal rights of all the Cypriot people. That is why I disagree with the position you have put forward: that the positions of the Greek Cypriot side conflict with those of the majority of the Cypriot people.

There are, of course, the positions of the various political parties, and these positions are expressed. But we mustn’t forget that the President of the Republic of Cyprus has been elected by the Cypriot people and expresses the will of the Cypriot people.

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