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Briefing of diplomatic correspondents by Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Mr. Delavekouras: Good morning. At 13:30 today, Foreign Minister Lambrinidis will attend a working luncheon being hosted by the Polish Ambassador to Greece on the occasion of Poland’s assuming the EU Presidency. This luncheon will be attended by the Ambassadors of EU member states and candidates for EU membership.

At 17:00, Mr. Lambrinidis will receive the outgoing French Ambassador in a courtesy call, and he will receive the outgoing Chinese Ambassador at 17:20.

On Friday, 15 July 2011, Foreign Mr. Lambrinidis will travel to Istanbul to participate in the 4th meeting of the Libya Contact Group, at which there is to be a discussion of the urgent need to begin a transitional political process and further coordinate the international community’s provision of economic support and aid to Libya. While in Istanbul, Mr. Lambrinidis will also meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch.

On Sunday, 17 July 2011, the Foreign Minister will meet with the U.S. Secretary of State within the framework of a visit she is paying to our country.

On Monday, 18 July 2011, Mr. Lambrinidis will be in Brussels, accompanied by Alternate Foreign Minister Xenogiannakopoulou, to participate in the meetings of the General Affairs and Foreign Affairs Councils (GAC/FAC). The GAC will initiate the discussion on the new financial framework and there will also be a discussion of the Polish Presidency’s programme. The FAC agenda includes discussion of developments in the Southern Neighbourhood – especially Syria, Libya and Lebanon – a discussion of the Middle East peace process, the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, 19 and 20 July, Mr. Lambrinidis will carry out a trip to Poland within the framework of the meetings he is having in European capitals. He will meet with his Polish counterpart and speak on “Responsibility and Solidarity: the building blocks of our Union”, at the Polish Institute of International Affairs.

Alternate Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou will be in Brussels on 19 July and will meet with European Commission Vice President Sefcovic, as well as with the Financial Programming and Budget Commissioner and the Regional Policy Commissioner.

Finally, the Foreign Ministry’s Secretary General, Ambassador Yannis-Alexis Zepos, will meet in Athens on Friday, 15 July 2011, with his Netherlands counterpart Ambassador Ed Kronenburg, within the framework of political consultations. The meeting will focus on matters of bilateral, European and broader regional issues.

Your questions, please.

Mr. Hadoulis: Is there anything new on sending aid to Gaza?

Mr. Delavekouras: The proposal put forward by the Greek government still stands, as does Greece’s readiness to undertake to transport humanitarian aid, provided the activists want this to happen. So far there hasn’t been a response.

But I want you to know that Greece’s will to contribute in this direction is a given, that this proposal is still on the table, and that we hope there will be corresponding interest. At the same time, I want to reiterate Greece’s firm position that the blockade on Gaza needs to be lifted and that the humanitarian situation in the region must improve.

At the same time, it is very important that we should see progress in the peace process; that we should see the peace talks start again so that we can reach a solution that will allow for the creation of a Palestinian state that will live side by side with Israel in conditions of security.

These are our positions. We recently had the President of the Republic’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. We hope to see progress.

The recent meeting of the Quartet couldn’t arrive at a joint position, but we understand that the consultations are continuing and we hope that the Quartet will be able to formulate a joint position that will help towards the relaunching of the peace talks.

Mr. Hadoulis: It’s a matter of the activists’ responding? What does the Palestinian side say? Papoulias was just in …

Mr. Delavekouras: And of course there was the Prime Minister’s earlier conversation with President Abbas. The Palestinian Authority’s position is that it supports the Greek initiative.

And this is not just the Palestinian Authority’s position. All of our collocutors express their support for this Greek initiative, and I stress the UN’s support and readiness to assist.

Beyond that, however, there needs to be a response if we are to move ahead with this plan.

Mr. Hadoulis: One last question. How would you get the aid to Gaza? Through Egypt? Through Turkey? What’s your plan?

Mr. Delavekouras: This is something we are working out together with the UN, but it depends first of all on the response of the NGOs and their making the aid they have available.

Mr. Athanasopoulos: Mr. Spokesman, can you talk to us a little about the agenda for Ms. Clinton’s visit to Athens?

Mr. Delavekouras: Of course. First of all, let me say that the U.S. Secretary of State’s visit to Greece is taking place at a time when cooperation between the two sides is very close and the climate in our relations is very positive.

We will have the opportunity to discuss all the issues with Ms. Clinton. She will have talks at the Foreign Ministry, and she is to be received by the Prime Ministers and the President of the Republic. The details of her itinerary haven’t been finalized yet, so I’m not in a position to announce them.

As to the content of the talks, we expect to have a wide-ranging discussion on all the foreign policy issues, on the recent developments in North Africa and the Middle East, where our country has been very active in the effort to find solutions to the pending issues that exist.

That is why it will be very important for us to coordinate with the U.S. side, so that we can see what they’re thinking is on these issues, on the progress of the Middle East peace process, on the developments in Libya and the efforts to find a political solution.

In this context, tomorrow’s meeting of the Libya Contact Group is also important. That will be taking place in Istanbul, with Mr. Lambrinidis participating, as we said.

We will also have the chance to discuss the Balkan region, which is of the highest priority for us. You are aware that it is Greece’s strategic position that a space of development, stability and peace be created on our borders. That is why we have supported the progress of the Balkan countries and their approach to the European Union.

This is a strategy supported by the U.S. side, and that is why we will have the opportunity to talk about all the efforts Greece is making. We will also have the chance to discuss specific issues we have in the Balkans: the name issue, Albania’s progress, the Kosovo issue.

We will also have the opportunity for a discussion on the Cyprus issue, the course of the negotiations, Greece’s relationship with Turkey, Turkey’s EU accession course.

We will also discuss those issues, and there will naturally be a discussion of the current situation in the eurozone, the programme Greece is following and implementing conscientiously, as well as the positions of the U.S., which, as you can understand, have particular weight. We will have the opportunity for an in-depth discussion on all these issues.

Mr. Fourlis: I would like a comment on Mr. Davutoglu’s statement regarding the prospect of Cyprus’s assuming the EU Presidency and whether this will really impact or should be allowed to impact – as Mr. Davutoglu said – the prospect for resolving the Cyprus issue.

Mr. Delavekouras: First of all, I want to say that yesterday’s statement from Mr. Davutoglu’s conflicts with the statements Mr. Bagis made in the past: that Turkey looks forward to good cooperation with the Cypriot Presidency.

Beyond that, Turkey is not in a position to threaten or blackmail the EU or decide how the EU functions. The Republic of Cyprus will assume the EU Presidency in 2012, and I hope that Turkey tries to work with the Cypriot Presidency.

Beyond that, you are well aware that Turkey has undertaken specific commitments to the EU and its member states. Among these commitments is the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus and the implementation of the Ankara Protocol. We are waiting to see tangible progress. Greece firmly and consistently supports Turkey’s accession perspective. We support the accession process. But it is clear that this rides on Turkey’s meeting the obligations it has undertaken.

We hope to see progress in the coming time, but it needs to be clear that – and this was made clear in the recent UN announcement following the Secretary General’s meeting with President Christofias and Mr. Eroglu – that we are not talking about a process that will in any way involve artificial timeframes or mediation.

We are talking about a Cypriot-owned process in which the Cypriots negotiate and arrive at a solution that is in the interest of the whole of Cyprus; the reunited Cyprus. The Cyprus that is a member of the EU. And in this way all of the Cypriots – Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots – will be able to enjoy the benefits of their homeland’s membership in the EU.

Mr. Athanasopoulos: Is the Greek government aware of possible Turkish proposals of an interim nature on the Cyprus issue, such as the possible opening of a port in exchange for activation of the direct trade regulation. And if so, do you support such proposals, or not?

Mr. Delavekouras: There have been repeated leaks in the Turkish press with regard to this issue: proposals and meetings. The substance of the matter is, as I said earlier, that Turkey has made certain commitments, undertaken certain obligations. Turkey is obliged to implement the Ankara Protocol.

President Christofias and the Cypriot government have shown in action at the negotiating table, as well as through specific proposals they have made, the real will they have to achieve progress.

This will has not met with a response yet from Mr. Eroglu at the negotiating table, or from Turkey, which has a decisive role in the progress of the talks.

So, Turkey needs to change its stance. Turkey needs to meet its obligations, and this will unlock the accession process.

I repeat that Greece and Cyprus want to see this progress, but there are specific obligations that Turkey has undertaken to the EU and all its member states, and these obligations must be met.

Ms. Kourbela: Mr. Spokesman, with regard to Turkey, how many chapters remain open in the accession negotiations? That’s one question.

The other question is, about ten days ago there was a large German delegation here, and they met at the Foreign Ministry with Greeks and talked about investment issues. Was there any tangible result that can be announced? Thank you.

Mr. Delavekouras: On the first issue, right now there is the potential – following decisions taken within the framework of the EU – for the opening of three more chapters, as things stand today.

But there are specific conditions for these as well, within the framework of the accession process and the negotiations between the EU and Turkey. There are conditions that have to be met by Turkey, and if these are met, it will be possible to open the chapters.

On the second issue, I remind you that the Foreign Minister was also in Berlin for meetings recently. As you can see, Greek-German cooperation is of very great importance to us, and that is why we have invested in the implementation of the plan announced by the Prime Minister and the German Chancellor, which essentially provides for the development of cooperation between the two countries in specific sectors, including energy, renewable energy sources, research, technology.

So, we are investing in this sector, and we want to move ahead and see specific results. There is also interest from the German side. The Foreign Ministries are essentially coordinating the effort and the competent Ministries have already developed contacts. We will have visits of Greek Ministers to Germany and vice versa.

We really believe that we can find synergies that will be mutually beneficial and will help Greece in the development effort it is making at this time.

Mr. Fourlis: I want to raise two issue. The first is whether we have anything new on when the next Greek-Turkish High-Level Cooperation Council will convene.

The second – unrelated to the first: Last March you told us that within a month we would have news from the investigation on the NGOs and that the results would be given to Parliament. It is now July. Do you have the results of the investigation?

Mr. Delavekouras: Regarding the Greek-Turkish High-Level Cooperation Council, let me say that it is an issue that was discussed at the recent meeting between Mr. Lambrinidis and Mr. Davutoglu in Montenegro.

The two countries want to hold the High-Level Council. They want there to be good preparation that will lead to results. And in this regard instructions have been given to the two Foreign Ministries to coordinate and prepare this meeting.

The time for the second meeting, which will take place in Turkey, hasn’t been discussed yet. But as soon as that is feasible, we will announce it.

As for the investigation regarding the NGOs, let me say that the investigation is continuing. The Foreign Ministry has a firm desire and will for there to be a thorough audit, complete transparency. And as soon as this audit is completed, the data will be submitted to the Hellenic Parliament and will be made public. But I don’t have anything further to tell you at this time.

Thank you.