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Briefing of diplomatic correspondents by Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras

Thursday, 23 February 2012

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Good morning. Let’s start with the programme. First of all, Foreign Minister Dimas’s meeting with the President of the European Investment Bank took place earlier today on the margins of today’s conference on climate change. Mr. Dimas had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Hoyer about issues concerning Greece’s cooperation with the EIB, with particular emphasis on support for SMEs, which are essentially the backbone of the economy and the principal vehicle for Greece’s development efforts.

At 13:00 this afternoon, Mr. Dimas will host a luncheon in honor of the Arab Ambassadors to Greece.

At 10:30 tomorrow, Mr. Dimas will meet with His Eminence Emmanuel Metropolitan of France.

On Monday and Tuesday, 27 and 28 February, Mr. Dimas will be in Brussels to attend the General Affairs and Foreign Affairs Councils. The FAC agenda includes a review of the recent developments in Syria and the Middle East peace process, while there is also be a discussion of the situations in Egypt, the southern Caucasus, Serbia and Kosovo. The GAC will make preparations for the European Council of 1 and 2 March, and, under the heading “enlargement,” there will be a discussion of Serbia’s accession course.

Deputy Foreign Minister Dollis will be in Tunis tomorrow to participate in the “Friends of Syria” international conference, on the margins of which he will have bilateral meetings.

On Monday and Tuesday, 27 and 28 February, Mr. Dollis will visit Jerusalem, where he will meet with Patriarch Theophilos, and Tel Aviv, where he will be received by Israeli Foreign Minister Liebermann as well as Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon.

On Wednesday, 29 February, Mr. Dollis will be in Istanbul, where he will meet with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Finally, the Foreign Ministry’s Secretary General for International Economic Relations will participate as a speaker tomorrow in a conference being hosted by the Foreign Ministry on “Energy Cooperation within the framework of the Union for the Mediterranean”. This conference is being organized by the Special Secretariat for the Development of International Programs.

That’s it for announcements. Your questions, please.

N. MELETIS: Is there a specific reason for these visits?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: The Deputy Minister will have bilateral contacts in Tel Aviv and will meet with the Patriarch of Jerusalem. He will then meet in Istanbul with the Ecumenical Patriarch, all within the framework of his portfolio.

A. BARAKAT: What will the Minister ask for from the Arab Ambassadors? Is there anything new? Will he say anything specific to them?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Relations with the Arab world, the Arab countries, are a top priority for Greece, particularly right now, when our neighbourhood, the Eastern Mediterranean, is facing major challenges

We have major developments in the region, and we will reiterate Greece’s firm support  for the efforts being made in various Eastern Mediterranean countries to take steps toward democratization and reforms.

This relationship of cooperation and trust that we have with the Arab world is reaffirmed by the regular meetings that take place, both with Arab Ambassadors in Athens, as well as on the political level, at every opportunity.

I would like to note, for example, that Mr. Dimas participated earlier this week, in Italy, in the Mediterranean Forum Meeting, where he had the opportunity for very constructive meetings with his Egyptian, Libyan and Tunisian counterparts.

In this context, today they will have the opportunity to discuss all the developments in our region, the course of the reform processes, the very serious situation in Syria, on which I believe we will have the chance to hear the views of the other countries in the region.

The situation in Syria is unacceptable. The violence must cease immediately, and I would like to express our condolences at the loss of two journalists in Syria yesterday, as well as at the ongoing bloodshed, for which the regime is responsible.

And that is also why we will be participating in the Meeting in Tunis regarding developments in Syria. But they will also naturally have the opportunity to discuss Greece’s bilateral relations and cooperation with the whole region, the opportunities that exist for economic cooperation, increased trade relations, the call for investments in our country.

These are issues on which we are consistently pursuing progress. There have also been some results, but we believe that there is a very great dynamic in this relationship, and so we have to strengthen it.

P. PAPATHANASIOU: Mr. Spokesman, can you give us a comment on the negotiations for the delimitation of the EEZ with Egypt? A second question: Is Libya an alternative source of oil for Athens, following the developments in Iran? Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Regarding the first issue, as you know, Greece’s policy is the delimitation of all maritime zones with all its neighbours. Within this framework, we are pursuing progress in the negotiations that have already begun – and with Egypt negotiations have been underway for a number of years on the delimitation of the maritime zones between us. And in that context, there will soon be a meeting on the level of experts so that these talks can move ahead. All of this is happening, of course, within the framework of the very good bilateral relations Greece has with Egypt, the very good cooperation we have, and the good relations of trust that we maintain.

On your second question, it is certainly the case that as oil production increases in Libya and returns to pre-war levels, Libya will be an alternative supply source. This is something that Mr. Dimas discussed in the meeting he had with his Libyan counterpart. Naturally, as you can understand, supply issues are primarily the province of companies, which are in contact and are exploring the possibilities that exist for dealing with potential obstacles to a regular supply of oil.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: Will Libya give us oil on credit, like Iran? If I’m not mistaken, it [Iran] is the only country that does so. Because you said this was discussed.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: We are essentially talking about talks that are taking place between companies, and I obviously can’t set out the terms of those agreements for you. What is a given is that the competent agencies in Greece have begun in a timely manner to explore all the alternatives that exist for ensuring a steady supply of oil for our country.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: But shouldn’t it be the case that exploration of the ways our country can secure its oil supply – which is in tragic condition, which is in danger, from what I heard, from Mr. Papademos’s declaration, which is in danger of shutting down, etc. So, shouldn’t such a country secure its supply before voting in favor of an oil embargo on Iran. Why was the cart put before the horse?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: The supplying of our country with oil has continued smoothly till now. There is a clear framework that has been decided on within the framework of the EU. Beyond that, there is ample time for the competent agencies to be able to secure alternative supply sources on corresponding economic terms.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: If it doesn’t secure its supply, what happens? What have you agreed on with the others?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: The picture we have is that the competent agencies are holding these meetings, exploratory talks, so that they can ensure the country’s steady supply of oil in a timely manner.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: Why did Greece vote in favor of this resolution? Can you explain that, because I don’t understand?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: As I have said before, at previous briefings, Greece places great importance on the finding of a diplomatic solution to the issue that exists right now regarding Iran’s nuclear programme.

It is clear that all the countries in the world have the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. But in the case of Iran there is a clear issue of trust that has arisen, and that is why there have been negotiations in the past – and, let’s hope, in the near future – between the international community and Iran.

At the same time, there is a need for very close cooperation between the competent international organization, the IAEA, and the Iranian authorities, so that this lack of trust can be overcome and there can be transparency, which will allow for a lower tone and the finding of the diplomatic solutions we are talking about.

This is the framework we are in, that we emphasize. We emphasize diplomacy and we believe that if there is good will on all sides, we can achieve these solutions.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: What will Greece’s position be if – and this is quite probable judging from the international news media – there is a military attack on Iran or Syria?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I just said that Greece supports diplomatic solutions and diplomatic processes. We do not support military alternatives. Beyond that, I will not go into a discussion of the hypothetical scenarios that have come out in the media.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: One last question, Mr. Spokesman, so as not to wear out your patience, though you are very patient. I want to ask – given that the EU Ambassadors met recently with the Iranian government, In Tehran, from what I read – what you have from the Iranian side. Will they continue to supply oil steadily until the summer? Have you had such an assurance, or is there a danger of the supply being cut off?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: That would be a unilateral decision taken by Iran. We are in ongoing contact with the Iranian authorities, but at the same time, as I said, the competent Greek agencies are taking all the necessary actions to ensure the country’s steady supply of oil.

N. MELETIS: Following BP’s announcement that the ITGI is now dead, is the Greek government, the Foreign Ministry, considering taking any initiative to explore participation in the other programme that exists, the southern section of the pipeline?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: On this issue, I would first of all like to refer you to the relevant statements from the Italian and Greek Energy Ministries. I think it is premature to call this plan dead, and I believe that there is still a large margin for negotiations so that we can look at how the natural resources in the Caspian region can be conveyed to the European market.

These talks, as you can see, are carried out by the competent companies and the Energy Ministry – naturally, with the support of the Foreign Ministry – and I think that we need to continue with this mindset, given that the ITGI and the IGB are projects in an advanced stage of maturity: they have all the international agreements required for their implementation, with regard to competing plans, and this plays and important role in the final decisions.

C. KAPOUTSIS: In reply to a question from a Turkish MP at the Ministerial National Assembly regarding the status of the sovereignty of Farmakonisi and Agathonisi, the Turkish Foreign Minister put them in the grey zones. Do you have any comment?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Yes, we saw that question and the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s reply. I would like to make it clear that there is no question whatsoever, no doubt, with regard to the sovereignty status of any island or islet in the Aegean. All this is governed by international agreements, which are crystal clear, and that is why there is no doubt, and nor is there any discussion with the Turkish side.

N. MELETIS: Aren’t you concerned at the fact that after so many years, and with the new Erdogan government and the developments in Turkey, that the Turkish side insists on the grey zones? And how is it possible for exploratory talks to continue on the continental shelf in the Aegean when it is a given – and in a very official manner – that Turkey insists on grey zones? On what basis are these talks taking place, Mr. Spokesman?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I want to repeat that there is no question as to the status of any island or islet. We saw this reply from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, but I think the answer I am giving you is absolutely clear and is the sole basis on which any discussion can take place with Turkey, including the issue of the exploratory talks to which you referred. In other words, there is no doubt regarding any point on Greek territory.

N. MELETIS: My question is, how can there be exploratory talks on the continental shelf, for example – how do you delimit the continental shelf in the Agathonisi region? Can you explain that to me? How can you discuss the Agathonisi continental shelf with Turkey when the Turkish Foreign Minister says that this region is in question?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Agathonisi, just like any other island, has rights to all the maritime zones, as provide for by the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

A. VOUDOURI: Regarding yesterday’s visit from the UN Secretary General’s person envoy, Matthew Nimetz – what does this visit mean for the region? That is, do you see a reactivation of the negotiation process, and will there be a meeting soon between Mr. Nimetz and the representatives of Greece and Skopje?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I would like to say that at yesterday’s meeting, as well, one of the main points emphasized by the Greek side was Greece’s firm support for Mr. Nimetz’s mandate and the efforts he is making in the UN process.

We believe that from there, from the negotiations, provided they are carried out in good faith and in a constructive spirit, a solution can be found on the name issue. Greece wants the activation of the process under Mr. Nimetz, and in that context there were meetings in January, as well as the visits to Skopje and Athens in the past few days.

The next steps have not yet been decided on. The mediator will communicate with the representatives of the two sides to decide what the next steps will be. For our part, I would like to stress that Greece expressed its readiness to participate constructively in this process, and we expect the same from the other side.

What we cannot overlook is that it does not suffice to say that you want negotiations and you want progress. You also have to do something about it, and so far we have seen no change at the negotiating table from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia side.

In contrast, we have seen a climate that is deteriorating due to actions carried out in our neighbouring country; actions that have to stop so that we can create an atmosphere conducive to progress in the negotiations.

Within this framework, we are waiting for Prime Minister Papademos’s meeting to take place, at the next European Council, following an invitation extended by the Prime Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: A few months ago, Mr. Alex Rondos participated in a conference in Turkey, stating his official capacity at the conference to be Advisor to the Prime Minister, not former Advisor to the Prime Minister. Is this accurate? Was he advising the Prime Minister, or was he lying?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Mr. Rondos has no institutional relationship with the Foreign Ministry, and nor did he have one in the past, in the last three years.

M. POPOVIK: Mr. Spokesman, what would Greece’s reaction be if some country at the NATO Summit in May asked that FYROM be admitted to NATO? Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I think that the decisions of the North Atlantic Alliance, at the summit level, both in Bucharest and later at Kehl and Lisbon, as well as the latest decision taken in December 2011, are very clear on this matter.

We should encourage the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to move ahead in this direction, and we support its Euroatlantic perspective. But it will have to meet all the prerequisites and criteria set by the Alliance in unanimous decisions. Any other questions?

A. VOUDOURI: The General Panhellenic Federation of Tourism Enterprises sent a letter, asking for the immediate activation of the Culture and Tourism Ministry’s Crisis Committee, in collaboration with the Foreign Ministry, to handle the fact that every day there are mass cancellations of package tours from abroad. There was a meeting last week at the Foreign Ministry, with the participation of the Culture Minister and Ministry officials. What was the conclusion of that meeting? Is there a specific plan? How can you reply to such a letter and to the alarm raised by the General Panhellenic Federation of Tourism Enterprises?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: As you can understand, there is coordination with the Culture and Tourism Ministry, and there is an effort to make optimum use, in the best possible manner, of all the means at our disposal, so that we can deal with the negative publicity Greece is getting right now. Unfortunately, the pictures of the disturbances in Athens – which are being shown on international networks around the world – essentially undermine this effort and undermine the effort our country is making toward development, because these events are taking place at a very critical time for the tourist season coming this summer.

There are instructions for all Embassies and Press Offices to react immediately to all instances of efforts to distort the reality of the situation and to all instances of negative presentations of Greece, so that the real image of Greece can be projected; the image appropriate to Greece. They have been instructed to make this effort through the news media and on the level of civil society, non-governmental organizations, citizens movements, which are gradually coming out to speak in favor of our country. They have been instructed to use Greek communities, opinion makers, universities.

Concurrently, this is the consistent message we convey in all our meetings with foreign leaders. This effort is being made in coordination with the Secretariat General for Communication and the Culture and Tourism Ministry. But a key role is also played by the image our country projects abroad, and the scenes we saw last week certainly aren’t helping.

We will continue this effort. And this was something that was discussed yesterday by the Foreign Minister and the government spokesperson, so that we can see how and in what other ways we can reverse the negative image, which is vital because of the coming tourist season.

S. RISTOVSKA: Mr. Spokesman, at yesterday’s meeting between the Foreign Minister and Mr. Nimetz, did they discuss the ICJ ruling and identity? You have told us the talks are only about the name. Meanwhile, there have been some statements to the effect that the identity issue might be included.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: On your first question, there was no discussion of the ICJ ruling, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the negotiating process. If we take anything from that ruling, it should be that the Court calls on Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to negotiate in good faith and reach a solution. This is precisely what the whole of the international community has asked for, as well.

We had statements from all the international organizations and interested parties right after the ICJ ruling, and all of them stressed the need for the negotiations to move ahead so that we can reach a solution. And political will is a prerequisite for that.

As for the subject of the negotiations, the framework is clear and is determined by the relevant Security Council resolutions. That was the subject of the talks Mr. Nimetz had yesterday with the Greek Prime Minister.

Thank you very much.