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Briefing of diplomatic correspondents by Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras

Thursday, 29 March 2012

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Good morning. I’ll start with the Ministry programme. At noon today – if his schedule allows it – Foreign Minister Dimas will give a welcome speech at an event being organized by the Union of Diplomatic Personnel on “Modern Philhellenism”. Deputy Foreign Minister Dollis will also participate in the event. You can attend if you wish. It will be starting at 12:00, at the Foreign Ministry’s Kranidiotis Amphitheatre, 1 Akadimias St.

At 16:00 today, Mr. Dimas will convene a meeting at the Foreign Ministry on the stay in Greece of Libyan wounded being cared for at Greek hospitals. The meeting will be attended by Deputy Foreign Minister Dollis, Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Economou, the President of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, Mr. Andreadis, and representative of Greek hospitals.

At 13:00 on Thursday, 5 April 2012, Foreign Minister Dimas will meet with his Georgian counterpart, Mr. Vashadze, to discuss bilateral and regional issues. They will make statements to the news media following their meeting, and they will then have a working luncheon.

Secretary General Zepos is travelling to Rabat, Morocco, today for political consultations with his Moroccan counterpart on bilateral, regional and international issues. While he is there, Ambassador Zepos will also meet with the Moroccan Foreign Minister, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and his counterparts from other Ministries.

With regard to the second meeting of the international Friends of the Syrian People, which is taking place in Istanbul on 1 April, as things stand right now, and bearing in mind that Turkey has not addressed a relevant invitation to the Republic of Cyprus, Greece will be downgrading its participation to an official level.

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

G. HADOULIS: Good morning. I have a question on the Libya meeting you mentioned. I wanted to ask for some additional information, such as, for example, whether there is any call for concern that requires this meeting be held. That is, we have past news reports that say that the Libyans might abuse the terms of their stay. I don’t know whether that is the case – you can tell us today – and what information we have regarding how many there are being cared for in hospitals in Greece right now. Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I’d like to start by saying that during the war our country undertook a very important initiative: that of transporting and providing care for persons wounded in the conflict. Greece continued this process – with the facilitations provided for – in order for these people in need to reach our country. Other countries have done the same, but our country has a leading role.

Certainly, based on the data we have been given by the Citizen Protection Ministry, there have been cases of abuse of this system, and it is precisely because it is important that we have a clear picture and be thoroughly apprised that the Foreign Ministry has convened this meeting, where all the involved agencies will be able to state their views and experience of how this system is functioning, so that any problem that arise can be dealt with.

D. KONTANTAKOPOULOS: How many are there?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: That is information that is being monitored by the Citizen Protection Ministry.

P. PAPATHANASIOU: Mr. Spokesman, on the subject of Libya, I would like to come back to an issue that you briefed us on at a previous briefing, regarding the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone. I would like to ask whether you can tell us why the Gulf of Sidra has been excluded from the negotiations on the delimitation of the EEZ between Greece and Libya. In the same context, I would like to ask whether the unwillingness of the Republic of Cyprus to co-sign the memorandum on energy cooperation, with Greece and Israel, whether you see that as creating an obstacle in Athens to energy cooperation with Tel Aviv. Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: In both your questions, you draw certain conclusions that do not coincide with the information I have.

First of all, our country has in fact been in negotiations with Libya for a number of years now on the delimitation of the maritime zones between them. Those negotiations continued up to a certain point, after which political developments led to their suspension, but it remains Greece’s firm desire that they start again, so that we can move ahead to the delimitation of the maritime zones between our two countries. In this framework, all the issues are obviously being discussed, based on the Law of the Sea, which is the basis on which Greece discusses matters with all its neighbours.

As for your second point, there is no issue or negative development on the matter of Greece’s cooperation with other countries in our region, including with the Republic of Cyprus and with Israel, on energy cooperation issues. This is an area where we can have very important benefits for our countries. The discovery of natural gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean really changes things, and it is something that our country needs to capitalize on, given that it is a natural bridge for the transport of these natural resources to the European market. In this framework, we will continue our discussions, and naturally we want the greatest possible cooperation with all the countries in the region.

G. HADOULIS: Is there anything new on the matter of oil from Iran? There are news reports that we may turn more towards Russia.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: You are aware that Greece is among the countries that were exempted from the recent initiation of sanctions by the U.S. side – which also has its significance. Beyond that, the facts are well known. The Greek market continues to be supplied regularly with oil so that its needs can be covered, while at the same time the competent Greek agencies continue their contacts aimed at ensuring there is no problem in the future.

K. FRYSSA: I wanted to ask whether we have made a demarche regarding the transit of the Turkish frigate on the eve of 25 March.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: In fact, on the eve of 25 March we did have the passage of a Turkish frigate that, according to the data we have, did not comply with the terms of innocent passage, and for that reason instructions were given, following our notification by the Defense Ministry, to the Greek Embassy, so that we could proceed to presentations to the Turkish Foreign Ministry. I would also like to note that the fact that this occurred on the eve of our national holiday gives rise to intense concern. We are waiting for the Turkish side to follow a course of conduct that will contribute to the strengthening of bilateral relations – which is something the Turkish leadership says it wants to do, just as we do – always with respect for International Law and the sovereignty of each country.

A. PELONI: Good morning. I want you to say a few words about the meeting Mr. Morningstar, the State Department envoy, had at the Foreign Ministry, and I want to ask whether you have any comment on his speech at yesterday’s Economist Conference, in which he pretty much urged all the neighbours in the region to come to terms with each other – he obviously meant Greece with Turkey and Cyprus with Turkey. And with regard to Cyprus he said that any benefits or profits from energy should be shared proportionately or fairly, depending on how one translates it, between the two Communities. Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I’ll start with your first question. Mr. Morningstar did meet here at the Foreign Ministry with the Foreign Minister and with the Foreign Ministry’s Secretary General, Mr. Zepos. In his meeting with Mr. Dimas, they essentially discussed three issues. The first was the matter of oil exports from Iran, on which, as I mentioned earlier, we had the development that was positive for our country: Greece’s exemption from the list of American sanctions.

The second issue they discussed was energy transport via pipelines, from the Caspian basin and Russia to the European market. In this, as you know, Greece has a decisive role due to geography. There are plans on the table; plans that have moved ahead a fair amount. We are participating in all the relevant deliberations. We are interested in Greece’s being able to play this role, and we believe that this is important for Europe itself, so that we can strengthen Europe’s energy security and have more energy sources and transport routes.

The last point they discussed was the important developments in the energy field in the Eastern Mediterranean, with the discovery of natural gas deposits that create significant potential.

Regarding the second point you raised – that of cooperation between the countries in the region – let me remind you that Greece’s policy is the delimitation of all maritime zones with all its neighbours, not just because of the economic opportunities this would create, but precisely because this can contribute decisively to strengthening the stability and security of our region, and obviously this cooperation is useful and creates major benefits for everyone.

As for the matter of the natural wealth of the Republic of Cyprus, international law is very clear on the sovereign rights the Republic of Cyprus has, and I think that the Cypriot government has clearly stated that this utilization of natural wealth is to the benefit of the Cypriot people as a whole.

Thank you very much.