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Joint statements of Foreign Minister N. Kotzias and the First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Serbia, I. Dačić, following their meeting (Athens, 10 July 2017)

Monday, 10 July 2017

N. KOTZIAS: Good morning. Following the Conference on Cyprus, things always carry on forward. The continuation is that, on Thursday, we have the High-Level Cooperation Council between Greece and Serbia, and on Thursday afternoon, also in Thessaloniki, we have the trilateral meeting of the leaders of Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece.

This is an important event for our country's relations with one of our oldest and closest friends, Serbia. It is an event that underscores the importance of these countries in the region and in Europe. And today I had the good fortune to host the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Serbia in order to prepare for the High-Level Cooperation Council. And I thank him for being able to come, because I know, as a Foreign Minister, how complicated our schedules are.

I welcome you and I am explaining the importance of Serbia to Greece, of our cooperation in the High-Level Cooperation Council and the trilateral meeting we will be having together with Bulgaria.

In the preparations we carried out, we discussed and assessed the situation in our region and in the Western Balkans in particular. We discussed the current developments. The need for us to overcome nationalism in the region.

We talked about our cooperation in all sectors, and in particular about how we will step up the cooperation between our two Ministries; cooperation that will be extended to our directorates. It will become much broader and deeper.

We talked about economic cooperation issues and support for major plans/projects, like the Thessaloniki-Belgrade railway line. We talked about cooperation issues in all sectors, from investments and the financial sector to training, education and the common cultural ties we have.

We talked about the developments in Skopje, in Kosovo, and in the Western Balkan region in general. We talked about what a major gain it will be for Europe to have Serbia as a member of the European Union. Ten chapters have opened in the negotiations between Serbia and the European Union, and Greece will contribute to the promotion of these negotiations as much as it can through its experience and expertise.

And I want to underscore here, publicly, that Serbia is a country with infrastructure, capabilities, potential and a political institutional system that bring it closer than any other country in the region that is not already a member state; these things bring Serbia closer to the European Union.

No favours are being done, bearing in mind Serbia's European nature and the fact that Serbia belongs in the European Union and European culture. We also talked about our relations with countries beyond the Balkans.

I thanked my interlocutor in particular of the positive stance Serbia always maintains on the Cyprus problem. This was natural, since this was the first discussion we had had in two weeks regarding something other than the Cyprus issue.

And as you know, following the meeting and the luncheon I am having with the Serbian Foreign Minister, we have the National Council on Foreign Policy – again, on the Cyprus issue – and tomorrow we have the debate in Parliament on the Cyprus issue. This is an issue that is very important to us, and as a result, a country that gives its support in the way Serbia does has our gratitude, and we express our thanks.

Once again, Ivica, welcome. A thousand thanks.

I. DACIC: Thank you very much, my dear Nikos.

We would like to stress once again something that is the fundamental idea in our relations, and that is that we are friends, brothers. But this isn't just a phrase. It is confirmed through the ages, with each showing solidarity with and understanding of the other.

Two of the three sacred places every Serbian must see are here in Greece, here in this country. I constantly say to my family, to my children, that the Chilandariou Monastery is in Greece, on Mount Athos, but they also have to visit and see Corfu, and in particular the Blue Tomb, which symbolizes the ordeals suffered by the Serbian people during World War I, as well as the hospitality of the Greek people.

And the third sacred place is Kosovo and Metohija.

This shows how closely we are linked and that we – at least we politicians – have an obligation to continue this close relationship between our peoples.

I am pleased at the High-Level Cooperation Council between Greece and Serbia. The meeting is on Thursday. In the Serbian language, Thessaloniki is called Solun, but we really have no territorial aspirations.

Compared with certain other peoples, I can say that we really have no territorial aspirations.

The Serbian side will be headed by the President of the Republic, Mr. Vučić. We will talk about a number of important issues. We will discuss our bilateral relations, relations in the region, and the major projects awaiting us, that we have before us, which concern infrastructure, Corridor X, the railway line, the motorway, and other projects.

Greece is one of the biggest investors in Serbia, having invested over €2 billion.

It is a fact that all of this took place before the crisis in Greece, as well as in Serbia and in the rest of the world. Trade transactions between Greece and Serbia were at around €400 million, and we are expecting the trade between the two countries to grow more in the coming years.

Politically, Greece and Serbia should help and support one another firmly. Serbia firmly expresses its stance on the protection of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus. And we thank Greece and Cyprus for the support they show for Serbia and its territorial integrity. And we are talking about the case of Kosovo.

We should communicate regularly, dynamically, regarding our meetings, to consider regional issues, like the Cyprus issue, the refugee issue, cooperation against terrorism, and regarding the issue of the Albanian factor's influence in our region. We will look more generally at relations in the region and with the specific country, FYROM.

You know my thinking on this issue. I have expressed it numerous times, and I think Serbia made a mistake 20 years ago. When the former Yugoslavia broke up and the former Yugoslav Republics became states. At that time, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia took the decision to recognize this state under the name "Republic of Macedonia".

I think Serbia made a mistake in this regard. It wasn't right vis-a-vis Greece. On the other hand, Skopje always had a negative stance on issues that were important to us, like the Kosovo issue. They recognized Kosovo and also supported Kosovo's candidacy in UNESCO.

Despite this issue belonging to the past, I want to state it here, officially, because I know it hurts our friends. Once again, I would like to say that we bear all of these things in mind and we will not make moves that might negatively impact the region's stability.

To the contrary, we will help to achieve stability, to preserve stability in our region. We are pleased that we have regular meetings and communication. We agreed to meet twice a year: once in Greece and once in Serbia. The consultations between our Directorates are also to be regular, so that we communicate and agree on our positions, each supporting the other.

We have a problematic approach, but I think this is perhaps also true for the Greeks, because we are brothers. We do a great deal more to resolve tensions with an enemy, and less to spend time with a friend, being aware, of course, of our friendly and brotherly relations. I think we should do the opposite. I think we should spend as much time together as possible, and I think we will be stronger for it.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the alliance between Greece and Serbia. We have never been ashamed of this. We were proud of what we did 150 years ago, and we are proud today. We are especially pleased about the trilateral meeting with Bulgaria, in Thessaloniki.

Those who have a positive outlook on the region should continue in the direction we are moving in.

I thank you once again.

JOURNALIST: ... Are you optimistic about the results of the recent elections in various Balkan countries, or do you think that the Albanian minority, in both FYROM and Kosovo, can impact Albania's relations with Serbia and the Balkans in general?

I. DACIC: We simply want good relations with Albania, and we think this is very important for all of these triangles, quadrangles that exist in our region. But it is obvious that there is an intensified policy that is being supported by the Albanian politicians. They want the Prizren platform; that is, for a unified Albanian state to be created. This truly is a major threat to regional stability and to the stability of Europe in general.

This is why I'm sure that these elections, particularly in Kosovo and Metohija, will not bring stability, because whoever is elected in the position of Prime Minister, possibly Mr Haradinaj, we unfortunately cannot say who will be better in terms of the interests of the Serbian population living there.

I am among those politicians who do not like early elections. Because if frequent elections were good, we would see them in the Vatican as well.

So elections are held once in a while. More generally, we shouldn't have elections constantly, but if elections have already been held, in Serbia we have political stability, and I hope this continues to be the case in the future.

On 12 July, the day after tomorrow, in Trieste, we have the Western Balkans-EU Summit Meeting. Italy is the host. We believe that Greece should also participate in this meeting. Greece would be an important participant. Serbia is already participating, so I think Greece should be participating as well.

JOURNALIST: Good morning. I would like to ask Mr. Kotzias a question. Three days ago, Mr. Minister, we were in Switzerland, where the Conference on Cyprus came to a close. We now see that a 'blame game’ is being mounted by Turkey. Would you like to comment? Thank you.

N. KOTZIAS: In Switzerland, Turkey submitted half a page that was identical to the text submitted by the Turkish Cypriots. In this way, it endeavoured to preserve its rights of intervention, as well as the treaties of alliance and guarantees. Subsequently, Turkey supposedly became more flexible and open to compromise solutions. As the announcement we issued, as the Foreign Ministry, on the day before yesterday says, when the UN Secretary-General decided to set down the agreements in a short paragraph, so that we could continue the discussions the following week, in New York, Turkey said that it was not in a position to make compromises and that it wants to maintain the illegal and anachronistic "right" to intervene in Cyprus; a "right" that runs counter to international law.

I remind you that during the discussions and negotiations in Switzerland, under constant personal pressure from me, Mr. Cavusoglu was forced to admit that he wants to maintain these rights of intervention, so that Turkey can decide to intervene, whenever it wants to, in a sovereign and independent member state of the EU and the UN.

Its demand runs counter to international law, against every thought of a solution, but as I underscored to him during the Conference itself, it is against the rules of Democracy and against the rules of the UN.

To be specific, what did the Turks want? For Greece to hang the agreement, with Greece's signature, on the cannon of the tank that could invade Cyprus; the agreement that would have enabled them to invade Cyprus whenever they wanted to.

They wanted the army that mounted the coup in Turkey – the army whose commander of the occupation forces was arrested in occupied Cyprus as a putschist, together with 10 high-ranking officers – to be a guarantor of Democracy and of the coexistence of the two communities in Cyprus.

And additionally, as I said: their outlooks ignore and assail the tradition of the western enlightenment and of western political culture.

The army is subordinate to politics and is not the agency that has the right to decide on policy.

Mr. Cavusoglu gave the UN Secretary-General the impression that he was prepared to compromise. As soon as the UN Secretary-General decided to set down on paper the supposed compromise, Turkey admitted that it had been misleading us for five days and that it cannot or does not want to or does not intend to make this compromise.

That’s how clear it is that Turkey is responsible for the collapse of the talks. That’s how clear it is that what Turkey was asking for is against democracy, our political system, and international law.