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Briefing of diplomatic correspondents by Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras

Thursday, 02 February 2012

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Good morning. Before I give you the programme, I would like to express our deep condolences regarding the tragedy in Egypt. We express our support for the Egyptian people in the wake of this tragic incident.

At 10:30 on Monday, 6 February, the President of SYRIZA, the Coalition of the Left, and the Ecological Movements, Alexis Tsipras, will visit the Foreign Ministry and will meet with the political leadership on issues concerning foreign policy and the functioning of the Foreign Ministry.

The UK Minister for Europe, Mr. Lidington, will be visiting our country on Wednesday, 8 February, and will meet with Foreign Minister Dimas and the Alternate Foreign Minister.

On Friday, 3 February, Alternate Foreign Minister Xenogiannakopoulou will meet with the new head of the EU representation in Skopje, Mr. Orav.

On Wednesday, 8 February, Deputy Foreign Minister Dollis will brief the Parliamentary Labor Committee on issues concerning Greeks abroad and the Diaspora.

Finally, Foreign Ministry Secretary General Ambassador Zepos will be in Nicosia on Tuesday, 7 February, for political consultations with the Secretary General of the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Cyprus, Ambassador Emiliou.

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

L. BLAVERIS: Mr. Spokesman, I would like to ask about the latest Turkish provocation, the corvette, the Bandirma. I would like to ask whether the Foreign Ministry has taken any action, and, if so, what actions, toward the Turkish side. Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: We did in fact have the transit of a Turkish corvette, which did not take place in accordance with the regulations of the Law of the Sea, and for that reason our Embassy in Ankara has been instructed to make a relevant demarche.

S. GANTONA: Following the issue of the embargo on Iran, we have information to the effect that Tehran is preparing to complete legislation that would sever oil transactions with Europe. What is the Ministry’s response. Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I would like to remind you that this issue was raised for discussion as early as 1 December 2011, at the level of Foreign Ministers, at the EU Council.

At that time, Greece expressed its concerns regarding the repercussions of such measures for the European economies, and in this case we are not just talking about Greece, but other countries that import significant quantities of oil from Iran.

This discussion continued, and at the same time the competent agencies in Greece explored and are still exploring potential alternative supply sources.

At the Foreign Affairs Council a few days ago, we came to a decision that ensures that existing contracts for the next five and a half months will continue to be honoured, while the decision on imposing sanctions includes a revision clause that provides for the examination of conditions in the market and provision conditions so as to ensure the uninterrupted supply of the European market with oil.

Beyond that, there has been no new development. We believe there is adequate time for the competent agencies in Greece to explore the alternatives that exist, and the most important thing is for us to see progress on the political issue: progress on Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA. IAEA representatives visited Tehran recently, and it has already been announced that another visit will take place. At the same time, we hope to see progress in the negotiations between Iran and the group of six (EU3+3) regarding this country’s nuclear programme.

C. PAPACHRISTOU: On the same issue. I thought the question was, if Iran stops oil exports directly, what will the Greek side do?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Yes. I repeat that there has been no such development yet. At the same time, however, as I said, the competent agencies in Greece are exploring options for securing alternative supply sources.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: Mr. Spokesman, I understand that we are voting for the sanctions and hoping that something will happen – that we won’t have a problem. But this country has economic statistics that are worse than the economic statistics of the Weimar Republic between 1930 and 1933. That is, regardless of what anyone thinks, this country is being destroyed and is facing the direct threat of a major problem with fuel, food, pharmaceuticals, etc. How can the Greek government agree to such a measure without being absolutely sure that Greece won’t suffer the consequences.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: There are specific provisions in the decision taken by the European Union that ensure the smooth supply of oil to the European market, just as there are many contacts being made to secure alternative supply sources.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: Greece is currently supporting the imposition of sanctions. If we have a crisis with Iran, two things can happen with regard to Greece. Beyond the immediate severing of the country’s oil supplies, we may also have a major deterioration in the economic climate throughout Europe.

I read a comment in today’s Deutsche Welle, for example, from the top German expert, who says that “the debt of southern Europe will increase” – Greece’s debt, that is. And second, we are taking a new step in a direction that – as has been discussed in the international press and expressed publicly – may lead to a war in the Middle East; a war much worse than the ones we have seen to date.

How can the Greek government support such a measure, and why is it supporting this measure, in the final analysis? That is, why does the Greek government think that such a measure will help in some way? How will it help?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: As I said earlier – and this is the most important point – we want to see progress in Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA, as well as progress in the negotiations between the group of six and Iran. We believe that these negotiations can lead to the necessary clarifications and the restoration of trust.

You referred to a number of hypothetical situations that I will not go into. I am talking to you based on the facts we have right now. I say again that the EU’s decisions were taken following interventions by Greece, so that our country’s specific concerns could be included; concerns that are perfectly reasonable. And at the same time there is the revision clause so that we, as the European Union, can see what the conditions in the oil market are and secure uninterrupted oil supplies for the European market.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: Right. I’ll ask a question, so as not to create a bigger problem at the briefing.

Look, I understand that there are clauses. This has been done for the past twenty years in international situations: they put in various clauses that in practical terms mean that we reserve the right to do in the future what we dare not do today.

We have the example of the war in Iraq. We have the example of the weapons of mass destruction, regarding which a number of measures were taken and you know what the result is – and in the end those WMDs did not exist.

So my question is, will we allow the same process, with much greater global repercussions, to progress with Iran, while we play dumb? And you said that these measures were taken so that Iran would cooperate in the negotiations, so that the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme, etc., would go in the direction we want.

So I ask, do you have another example of such sanctions that had this result and did not lead to war? One example.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: First of all, let me say that I disagree completely with some of the characterizations you have used so far, and I repeat that Greece’s interest is in there being stability and security in our region, and that is why we believe in diplomacy. We believe, that is, that through diplomatic processes we can find solutions on the issues that exist. That is why we express our full support for the negotiations between the six and Iran, just as we believe in the strengthening of Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA. Greece will continue to work to this end. We do not want tensions in our region. We want solutions and we want cooperation.

S. RISTOVSKA: Mr. Spokesman, there are thoughts in Skopje and in Athens that if it weren’t for the so-called “antiquisation” in Skopje, that Greece would accept our joining NATO as FYROM. Your comment on this.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I don’t know what thoughts you are referring to. The framework that exists is crystal clear. UN Security Council resolutions have called for negotiations for achieving a mutually acceptable solution on the name issue. Greece has participated constructively in these negotiations throughout these years and has taken significant steps so that we might reach a solution. Unfortunately, to date we have not seen the other side respond in kind.

Beyond and in addition to that, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia side has steadily aggravated the situation, with constant attacks on Greece, with statements and actions that exacerbate the climate and do not allow for the creation of an atmosphere conducive to progress in the negotiations on the name issue at the UN. This is something that the Foreign Minister stressed in his recent meeting in Belgrade with his Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia counterpart: how important it is to Greece that there be a stop to the actions and statements that are exacerbating the climate.

We want progress in the negotiations. We support the mandate and the process of the UN and Mr. Nimetz. We look forward to Mr. Nimetz’s visit to the region in the near future so that he can have meetings on the political level and we can see what the real margins are for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, so that we can see progress. And we hope we will be able to reach a solution quickly, but this assumes political will from the other side as well.

Unfortunately, however, to date the negative statements and actions have continued. For example, we continue to have no condemnation of the burning of the Greek flag at the carnival in Vevcani. We are waiting to see a change in stance that will allow for improvement in the atmosphere and the climate.

M. KOURBELA: Mr. Spokesman, I want to ask two questions. One concerns the upcoming Greek presidency of the EU. Are we making preparations? Because the other two countries of the triple presidency are making intensive preparations. The second question concerns the economic internationalization of the European Union. How are we participating in that? Because there were statements to the effect that the EU will make dynamic overtures to strategic partners. Whether Greece is making moves in this framework.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Regarding the first matter, preparations for Greece’s EU Presidency in the first half of 2014 have been under way for some time now, with constant meetings among the Ministry Departments that will be directly involved, so that planning can be carried out, with meetings on the political and organizational level, as well as with our partners in the shared presidency; the trio.

There have been meetings for formulating the agenda that we will present as a trio, and for ensuring a smooth presidency during those 18 months and promotion of the goals we are setting, including the promotion of the accession process of the countries of the Western Balkans, on which we are working constantly with our partners in the European Union and with the countries in the region. In fact, Foreign Minister Dimas recently had the opportunity in Belgrade to discuss all these issues with a number of his counterparts in the region, imparting momentum to this process so that these countries can take major steps toward the European Union.

Regarding the second issue, the European Union’s relations with strategic partners is one of the very important dimensions of EU external action. It is an issue that is discussed regularly at the summit level, as well as at the Foreign Ministers’ councils. Greece is participating actively in this process, because we believe that when the EU can talk to its strategic partners in a single voice, then it can strengthen its position and create greater opportunities for cooperation between these important countries and the European Union.

A. FOURLIS: I’ll change the subject, Mr. Spokesman. Tomorrow, we are expecting the ICJ decision on the case between Italy and Germany, with Greece intervening: on the case of Distomo and the pending matter of compensation being sought be some  people. Does the Foreign Ministry have an official stance on this issue?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: The ICJ judgement will be announced tomorrow on the case Germany brought against Italy, on jurisdictional immunities and the carrying out of judgements handed down by Italian courts on assets of the German state in Italy. By decision of the Greek government, Greece asked the court to allow it to intervene in favor of Italy in this judicial procedure. Professor Stelios Perrakis was appointed Greece’s representative, and he will be present tomorrow at the announcement of the Court’s judgement. So, we will have to wait for tomorrow’s announcement of the Court’s judgement.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: (off microphone)

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Certainly, this intervention was accepted and was an important development. The Court, that is, decided to accept the Greek intervention, so our oral observations were presented. Greece has intervened in favor of Italy, as I said, and we are waiting to see what the Court’s judgment is.

P. PAPATHANASIOU: Mr. Spokesman, last Saturday, at the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Greece countersigned the treaty on enforcing intellectual property rights on the web, known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). I would like you to tell us who signed on Greece’s part, and with legitimization from what national or super-national legislative body did they proceed to this signing, while other member states did not do the same. Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I’ll find out and let you know.

Ν. KABAKLI: I will ask my question in English. I wonder what is the Greek Government’s position and what are their comments on the results on the recent Greentree talks on Cyprus. And secondly, when you look at decreasing military expenditures, can you say that Greece, in terms of recent Turkish relations, and can you say that Greece, Turkey is not a threat for Greece anymore or any other issue?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I’ll start with the first question, regarding the Greentree meeting. First of all I would like to express our disappointment at the lack of progress. Greece supports the negotiation process at the UN and hoped that more progress could be made at this meeting. We believe that the lack of progress – or the very little progress made – is due to the fact that the Turkish Cypriot side, throughout the negotiations between the two Greentree meetings, did not comply with what had been agreed to, while making the negotiating process more and more difficult by backing down from the agreed framework.

Beyond that, we believe that this process can bring results, provided there is the requisite political will, and that is why the Turkish Cypriot side needs to change its stance in the negotiations if we are to see the real steps that are needed. Unfortunately, however, the Turkish Cypriot side’s stance to date does not inspire optimism.

Regarding your second question, defence and arms spending issues are handled by the Defense Ministry. The only thing I want to say is that Greece fully maintains its deterrent capabilities to ensure the defence of its national sovereignty. Regarding Turkey, Greece wants improved relations with this country. But we believe that this improvement of relations can come only through respect for international laws and the national sovereignty of each country. That is why we expect Turkey to exhibit conduct that is in accordance with international law. However, the provocations continue, as do actions that create tensions. That is why Greece is proceeding to all the necessary actions, diplomatic and otherwise, to safeguard its national sovereignty.

S. RISTOVSKA: One more question regarding Mr. Orav, who you said is coming to Athens. Will he meet with Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Yes, and with Ministry officials.

S. RISTOVSKA: What will they discuss, as I think this is the first time there will be a visit to Athens by an EU representative to Skopje.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: We have always had contacts with the EU’s representatives in Skopje and in the other  countries in the Balkans, precisely because Greece wants to play and active role in promoting the EU’s relations with our region and in promoting the accession perspective of these countries. As you can see, it will be an opportunity to discuss all the issues bearing on Greece’s bilateral relations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s relations with the EU, and we believe it will be very useful, ahead of his taking up his duties, for him to get a thorough briefing from the Greek side.

Thank you very much.