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Briefing of diplomatic correspondents by Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Mr. Delavekouras: Good morning and happy New Year. I’ll start with the programmes of the political leadership.

At 11:00 this morning, Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas participated in the Prime Minister’s meeting with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Liberman. At 17:00 this afternoon, Mr. Droutsas will participate in Mr. Papandreou’s meeting with Internal Market and Services Commissioner Barnier.

On the afternoon of 18 January, Mr. Droutsas will participate in the President of the Republic’s talks with his Armenian counterpart, Mr. Serzh Sargsyan, who will be carrying out a state visit to our country. On the same day, Mr. Droutsas will meet with the Armenian Foreign Minister, and at 20:30 that evening, he will attend a dinner being hosted by President of the Republic Papoulias in honor of the Armenian President.

On Wednesday, 19 January, Mr. Droutsas will carry out a visit to Poland. In Warsaw, Mr. Droutsas will have talks with the Polish Foreign Minister, with whom he will discuss, among other things, EU issues ahead of Poland’s EU Presidency in the second half of 2011. While in Warsaw, Mr. Droutsas is also set to meet with the Speaker of the Polish Parliament.

Today, 13 January, Alternate Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou departs for Budapest to take part in the two-day informal meeting of EU European Affairs Ministers, which is taking place within the framework of the Hungarian EU Presidency.

At 10:00 on Tuesday, 18 January, Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou will address the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs regarding the ratification of the EU-Serbia Stabilization and Association Agreement.

At 12:00 today, Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis will receive the Ambassadors of Italy, Mr. Trupiano, and Boznia-Herzegovina, Mr. Bronza, with whom he will discuss Adriatic-Ionian Initiative (AII) issues.

At 19:00 this evening, Mr. Kouvelis will attend an ISTAME event on “Reforming the EU financial system: Drawing the right lessons from the crisis”. That is taking place at the Athens Concert Hall.

At 15:00 tomorrow, 14 January, Mr. Kouvelis will meet at his office with BSEC Secretary General Chrysanthopoulos.

At 10:00 on Monday, 17 January, Mr. Kouvelis will receive the Romanian Foreign Ministry’s Director General for Energy Security, and than evening he will attend the annual Athens Professional Chamber event at the Intercontinental Hotel.

At 11:30 on Tuesday, 18 January, Mr. Kouvelis will attend the signing ceremony for the International Bilateral Cooperation Agreement between the National Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Garyounis University of Libya. That afternoon, Mr. Kouvelis will meet with Singaporean Ambassador Philip Eng and, later, Czech Ambassador Hana Sevjikova.

Finally, at 11:00 on Wednesday, 19 January, Mr. Kouvelis will address the Greek-Armenian Business Forum that is to be held within the framework of the Armenian President’s visit to Athens.

On Sunday, 16 January, Deputy Foreign Minister Dollis will travel to Dervitsani, Albania, to participate in the events marking the 20th anniversary of the founding of Omonoia.

That’s it for the programme. Your questions, please.

Ms. Ristovska:
Regarding the meeting with Mr. Nimetz in New York, whether you see any change on the other side – positions, that is – because we read some articles here and there to the effect that there is will from the other side, with the other side saying there is no will from Greece, and whether it is true – as was written in newspapers here – that the Foreign Ministry believes it will be an informal meeting.

Mr. Delavekouras:
After a long time, Mr. Nimetz announced, about 10 days ago, that he has invited the negotiators from the two countries, Messrs. Vassilakis and Giolefski, to meet in New York.

We are happy that this meeting is taking place. It confirms that the United Nations process is the framework for the resolution of the name issue. We hope for and look forward to a constructive meeting. Precisely because quite a bit of time has passed since the previous meeting, it will be an opportunity for a substantial review by the two sides of where we stand on the name issue.

As such, we do not expect dramatic developments, and that is why I might characterize it as an informal meeting. Beyond that, Greece always comes to the process with the will to make progress. We have submitted our views, and we believe that they are reasonable and fair views that can lead us to a solution directly.

I think that the framework is now clear and it remains to be seen whether there is the political will from both sides for us to reach a solution. The meetings that have been pursued by the Greek side and that have taken place between the two Prime Ministers went some way towards creating a more positive climate, though there has been some backsliding.

What we need to do is maintain the positive climate, and that is why we will continue to pursue direct contacts on the high political level I referred to. But at some point we will have to see the same political will from the other side so that we can finally get to a solution on the name issue, because this is imperative if we are to be able to move ahead with FYROM’s EU and NATO accession processes.

Mr. Athanasopoulos
: Two questions: When the leadership of the Ministry took office and presented their priorities, they mentioned the setting up of a working group that would draw up a foreign policy doctrine, etc. Do we know where we stand on that process? First question.

The second question, somewhat related, because it concerns the organization of the Ministry: There is a general vagueness regarding how our country has moved on the issue of pursuing positions in the European External Action Service (EEAS). Could you give us some details on that? How organized are we on this? How many positions are we pursuing? Whether there is central guidance on our locking down specific positions, etc. Thank you.

Mr. Delavekouras
: I’ll start with your first question. The political leadership of the Ministry did in fact announce  the intention to create – essentially, for the first time – a foreign policy doctrine. This issue was discussed at the previous National Council on Foreign Policy and was also discussed at the most recent one.

The intention is for members of the National Council on Foreign Policy, academics and, possibly, journalists to be involved in the process of drawing up the foreign policy doctrine, so that we can draw on all contributions that can positively impact the final result.

For the time being, the Foreign Minister has given the Foreign Ministry’s Secretary General, Mr. Zepos, the task of drawing up an initial draft of this foreign policy doctrine, and as soon as it is finished – and it is in that process – it will be brought to the attention of the others I mentioned for discussion.

We want the foreign policy doctrine to be the product of consensus and to set out substantially and in a clear manner precisely what the backbone of Greek foreign policy is today. Regarding the second question you asked …

Mr. Athanasopoulos
: A follow-up on that, if I may. Is Mr. Zepos drawing up the draft on his own?

Mr. Delavekouras
: With the Service. That is, the Foreign Ministry will write the first draft, and from there we will communicate with everyone else.

On to your second question. Greece has put forward a number of important candidacies for various positions that have been announced to date.

It is a process that is in progress. It hasn’t been completed, and naturally we will continue to present our candidacies, which are individual, but with the support of the Greek government. The Foreign Ministry’s personnel are very capable and have a high level of know-how on the issues, and that is why we believe that we can contribute in a very satisfactory manner to the efforts to build this new EU institution, which will essentially provide a voice and presence in the world.

A Greek has already taken on the post of EU spokesperson to the World Trade Organization, and we believe that as the process progresses there will be other Foreign Ministry personnel staffing the EEAS. But I need to say here that in order for the EEAS to be representative, it will have to bear in mind the geographical element: that the European Union is made up of 27 member states, and their views need to be expressed via participation of personnel in the EEAS. Any other question?

Mr. Pollatos: Mr. Spokesman, what is your comment on the view of Mr. Erdogan that Mr. Papandreou’s speech in Erzurum was inelegant and that with what he said, Mr. Papandreou is provoking tension in Greek-Turkish relations?

Mr. Delavekouras:
I would like to start with the fact of this visit – the Prime Minister’s decision to accept this invitation from Mr. Erdogan and to attend the meeting of Turkish Ambassadors. A very symbolic move. And the Greek Prime Minister gave substance and content to this symbolism. He used this opportunity to present in a clear manner the will and vision of Greece for substantial improvement in the relations between the two countries.

But at the same time he had the opportunity to present – in an equally clear manner – the major problems keeping this relationship from moving ahead. The meetings the Prime Minister had there took place in a very warm climate and good atmosphere, and I think that was made clear in various phases of the visit.

Beyond that, Greek-Turkish relations are entering a new phase; a phase of sincerity; a phase in which you acknowledge the problems, set them out clearly and try to solve them. It is a clear political decision of the Greek government to make this effort, and it remains to be seen whether Turkey is ready.

The fact of the deplorable flyover carried out a day before the Prime Minister’s visit raises, first of all, the dangers of a hostile incident, as well as doubts as to the ability and will of Turkey to really move ahead to normalization of relations.

This is precisely why the Turkish Prime Minister’s commitment and declaration that he, too, wants substantial progress in our bilateral relations was so important. And that is why we have taken such important steps already in the time that has elapsed.

I remind you that the first meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council took place in May, opening the range of issues on which our two countries can work together. We had the signing of major agreements on a range of issues that touch upon the day-to-day lives of the citizens of both countries – illegal migration and tourism, for instance. These are steps that have given us a new framework in Greek-Turkish relations; a new institutional framework.

At the same time, there is a clear political mandate from the two Prime Ministers to the representatives of the two countries in the exploratory talks to intensify these contacts so that we can reach a solution. And there, too, Greece sets out its position that if we do not succeed in completing these exploratory contacts, then, yes, we need to have recourse to international justice, the International Court in The Hague, to get a solution on this legal matter.

Mr. Pollatos: You mentioned illegal migration. What progress is being made on the two agreements signed at the most recent and only High-Level Cooperation Council, because from what I remember, there were two agreements on the creation of two ports for carrying out readmission …

Mr. Delavekouras: One port.

Mr. Pollatos
: Has that moved ahead at all?

Mr. Delavekouras
: Exactly. A port has been designated by Turkey, consultations have taken place on a technical level – experts – between the two countries. The agreement is for Turkey to accept 1,000 applications annually from Greece.

Mr. Pollatos
: How many has it accepted so far?

Mr. Delavekouras: I don’t know the precise number right now.

Mr. Pollatos: Is it more than that? Less?

Mr. Delavekouras:
I don’t know the statistics. What I can tell you is that, first of all, on the level of political environment, until a certain point, Turkey confronted the whole matter of illegal migration defensively, considering that it was being targeted by the EU.

I think that through the contacts we had with Turkey on the level of Prime Ministers – Erdogan’s visit to Athens in the autumn and Papandreou’s visit to Turkey – the Turkish side saw how important and how serious this matter is.

First of all, there is disproportionate pressure on our country – disproportionate to Greece’s size and population – due to our geographical position on the external border of the EU, receiving the bulk of illegal migrants who, in the end, due to the provisions of the Dublin II Regulation, remain in our country.

That is why it is imperative that the European Union become more involved in the process, in the effort we are making to control this phenomenon, and that Turkey cooperate on controlling its borders. I believe that only through this cooperation can we really see results and send a strong message to the traffickers who are exploiting these people: that the passageway is closed. And thus, exploitation cannot continue here.

Mr. Pollatos: Since Turkey sees how important and serious this issue is, might there be potential for reassessing the 1,000-migrants-per-year number?

Mr. Delavekouras:
It’s 1,000 applications, not 1,000 migrants.

Mr. Pollatos: Oh, so it’s fewer – 20 or 30, let’s say …

Mr. Delavekouras
: Each application can be for more illegal migrants. Beyond that, however, the essential issue is that we need to create the institutional framework that will optimise cooperation between the EU itself and turkey, but we also need to have even stricter implementation of the existing bilateral readmission protocol.

What does this mean? This means that we want to see the conclusion of an EU-Turkey readmission agreement. Contacts have been made. Efforts have been made. There has been progress. But we haven’t reached that point yet.

We believe that these negotiations need to be concluded and an EU-Turkey readmission protocol needs to be agreed on. And until that happens, the existing agreement – with both Turkey and Bulgaria – needs to be complied with strictly. 

Mr. Athanasopoulos
: Two question – follow-ups from my colleague’s questions. One is on illegal migration. Where exactly does the discussion between the EU and Turkey stand regarding the signing of a readmission agreement? That’s one.

The second: Can you give us an idea of how Mr. Davutoglu answers Mr. Droutsas when the latter raises the issue of flyovers? How does he justify them? What does he propose to do to keep them from happening in the future?

Mr. Delavekouras: I’ll start with your first question. The most recent development we have was a short time ago. On the EU’s initiative, there was a meeting with Turkey and the European Union set out some proposals, and the discussion will essentially continue based on those proposals. But we haven’t yet reached the point of an agreement, which, naturally, when achieved, will be announced and will be a very positive development.

Mr. Athanasopoulos
: [off microphone – request for details on the EU’s proposals]

Mr. Delavekouras:
Look, they are specific proposals, technical texts that also have political dimensions, and for precisely that reason we believe they should follow the model of similar agreements that the EU has concluded with other countries. This is the framework and acquis, essentially, of the EU in this process. And it is on that reasoning that the EU is participating in the negotiations with Turkey. That is the result being pursued, and I hope we will be able to achieve it soon.

Regarding your second question, the Greek Foreign Minister had two telephone conversations with his Turkish counterpart before the Greek Prime Minister’s visit to Turkey.

In these conversations, The Greek Minister made it absolutely clear that these actions are unacceptable to Greece and that Greece will not tolerate them. I think that is the point we need to stress: that Greece is exercising its sovereignty and will not tolerate even a scratch on it.

For this reason, in any case where there are either infringements or violations or flyovers, there is immediate reaction from the Foreign Ministry and the Defence Ministry to fully defend our sovereignty.

Beyond that, a very serious demarche was made by the Foreign Minister to the Turkish Foreign Minister, and to the obvious question that arises – whether Greece should be present at Erzurum – we had the following options.

One option was for the Greek Prime Minister to decide not to go, and this really would have sent a message to Turkey. But it wouldn’t have got us anywhere. The other option was for the Greek Prime Minister to go to Erzurum and raise the issues in a clear manner, which is what he did.

The policy we are following is to tell it like it is; to raise the issues and try to resolve them. And that is exactly what happened.

Mr. Athanasopoulos: (off microphone)...

Mr. Delavekouras:  This is why I told you all the actions taken by the Greek side.  As long as there is this behaviour, it is obvious that Greek-Turkish relations are not going to be normalised. Given that Turkey declares it want to pursue improvement in relations with Greece, wanting their full normalization, then they must put an end to this behaviour.  This is clear.  As long as there is this behaviour, there will be a limit, there will be a ceiling on the point our relations can reach.

Ms. Boudouri
:  With regard to the Greek government’s proposal on the EU-Turkey Summit, I imagine it was discussed in Erzurum. How does Turkey see it? Because apart from Mr. Bagis, there has been no other official statement. And a second question: how are things moving in the European Union? That is, what are the other European capitals saying about this Summit?

Mr. Delavekouras
:  With regard to the meetings in Erzurum, great emphasis was placed on the issue of EU-Turkish relations, and I think it was our common realisation – as it came out of the discussions – that this process, as it is unfolding at the moment, has completely lost its dynamism. It is within this framework that the Greek Foreign Minister presented his thoughts about a potential meeting – perhaps even Summit – following the elections in Turkey, in order for the EU member states to renew in a clear manner their commitment to Turkey’s full accession, which presupposes of course the fulfilments of all the criteria that have been set.

But we are talking about a meeting that will precisely talk about the state of play in Turkey's accession process and its perspective; that is, whether we can lay down certain timeframes, certain results, in order for this process to gain substance again. There is no point in taking part in a fictitious negotiation process, nor is it any use to stir things up every six months, a few days before the end of each Presidency, in order to open another chapter.  This cannot be what the European Union’s relationship with Turkey is all about. This is why we had this discussion, this is why we presented this thought, and we will continue our contacts in the coming period. 

Now, with regard to the visit of the Foreign Minister to Poland, he will have the opportunity to discuss this with both his Polish counterpart – because in all probability it will be up to Poland  in this sense – and our other partners.  It is essentially an idea that is trying to gain back the substance and do away with this bureaucratic character, this procedural character that is of no use.

The problems are real and in this case we have to talk about them; the Prime Minister mentioned them in his speech in Erzurum. It is a fact that the reform process in Turkey is moving very, very slowly. Turkey has not carried out the necessary reforms.  And it is also a given fact that this message has been watered down by the European Union itself, because we have been hearing many different voices with regard to this issue.  And it is a fact that there is pressure by public opinion in certain countries, that many political leaders in the European Union see things differently, but if we are truly to have a relationship with Turkey that can lead to full accession, then we must speak clearly too. 

The last and most significant issue is the Cyprus issue, the political issue of Cyprus. This must be resolved and it is inconceivable for Turkey to join the European Union – and this will never happen – if the Cyprus issue is not resolved first; if an end is not put to the island's occupation. This is why, precisely in the spirit I described earlier, in all honesty, we need to sit down and speak frankly.  Instead of making unilateral statements here and there on how we disagree, we need to sit down and see if there is maybe common ground, if we can reach an agreement or if we disagree, to say that we disagree in a clear manner. 

Mr. Pollatos:  Because you have been telling us about this sincerity phase, do you have any idea how long this phase will last? And I am asking you because from what I can remember the Prime Minister had said the same things before at the High-level Cooperation Council within the framework of this honesty as you say, he had talked about the violations, about islanders seeing Turkish pilots from their windows and waving at them and so on.  I assume that Mr. Papandreou was being sincere back then too.  What I mean is, for how many years will he continue to be sincere and continue to present Greece’s views to all sides in all sincerity? And also, what is finally happening with the violations and this stance, these unacceptable actions? Do they raise doubts as to the capacity and commitment of the Turkish Prime Minister? I haven’t quite understood, what effectively stands in all of this.

Mr. Delavekouras:  Let me start with the first, saying that sincerity is merely a component of our policy. It is a characteristic which shapes the climate in the two countries’ relations, but it is not the only one.  Every act is accompanied by deeds, actions. And Greece has been actively following a policy seeking an improvement in our relations with Turkey. This is why I mentioned earlier the specific results we’ve produced; they are neither negligible nor indifferent and they touch upon the two peoples’ daily lives. This is why this effort has meaning. We are neighbours and we will be living together by the force of things. It is important for us to clarify our relations, to set limits to our relations and say exactly whether we can live together in peace or if we are doomed to be in conflict. This was the dilemma posed by the Prime Minister in his speech at Erzurum. The Turkish side has to answer this dilemma and there have been clear statements by the Turkish Prime Minister saying that yes, Turkey wants to take this step.  It is based on this given fact that we are moving forward, without overlooking, however, any other element, but taking everything into account and proceeding with the necessary actions defending our country’s interest, because this is in the end the only guide based on which we communicate with Turkey: defending the country’s interests, international law and our rights.  This is the guide and no other. 

With regard to violations and infringements, both are unacceptable. They risk causing accidents and they call into question Turkey's determination regarding this relationship. This is why they must stop.

Mr. Pollatos
:  And one more question.  In this spirit of sincerity, can you tell where exactly the exploratory contacts stand? I assume that the sincerity you would like is reciprocal, not between the two governments, but in order to give the citizens a picture and for you to be sincere vis-à-vis the citizens.  Where do the exploratory contacts stand? I am invoking the spirit of sincerity that you yourself used.

Mr. Delavekouras:  Of course, I will answer sincerely.  Exploratory contacts, as you know, have been governed by the rule of confidentiality every since they started and this is the framework within which they are being held, a framework that is, in my view, necessary for their progress.  Beyond that, we have to recognize a reality that the Greek and the Turkish Prime Ministers have given a clear mandate to the two countries’ representatives to intensify their contacts in order to achieve some tangible results.  This process is ongoing at the moment. There have been successive meetings and there will be more – I believe we will have another one soon.  This dialogue has to continue and we hope that it will reach a result.  But if it does not come to a result, and this is a real eventuality since we are talking about legal issues of great complexity, and it is not…

Mr. Pollatos:  What is the issue?

Mr. Delavekouras:  The issue of the delimitation of the continental shelf.  It is a very...

Mr. Pollatos:  You said issues.

Mr. Delavekouras:  I might have used the wrong wording.

Mr. Pollatos:  Is another issue being discussed apart from the continental shelf?

Mr. Delavekouras:  The delimitation of the continental shelf is under discussion.  So on this point, I would like to tell you that it is a very complicated issue which requires common ground to be found.  If we do not achieve that, and I recognize that this is an eventuality, then we will have to have recourse to international justice and this is Greece’s position.  But we will see, because we cannot yet say that we have reached a certain point of making an announcement on specific progress or say that there is no development in the meetings.

Mr. Athanasopoulos:
Are you looking into the eventuality of new talks on confidence-building measures in order to limit the risks in the airspace over the Aegean? That is my first question.  The second question which I did not intend to ask but came to my mind after the answer you gave to one of my colleagues, because we have covered the exploratory talks from the start in 2004, I would like to remind you that former Prime Minister Simitis mentions the exploratory contacts in his book, pointing out four issues that are under discussion with Turkey and one of them is the delimitation of the continental shelf. What happened to the other three? Have they been removed from the agenda? Thank you.

Mr. Delavekouras:  Let me answer the second question first and then you can remind me your first question again.  As I have said before, there is a rule of confidentiality and I am not going to break this rule.  I am not going to go into the content of the exploratory contact and there is no point in doing that.

Mr. Pollatos:  Was just one issue discussed or were there more than one?

Mr. Delavekouras:  I told you that the delimitation of the continental shelf is under discussion. And your first question?

Mr. Athanasopoulos
:  The first question was whether you are looking into the eventuality of new talks on confidence-building measures in order to limit the risks in the airspace over the Aegean?.

Mr. Delavekouras
:  Ah yes. I am not aware of a discussion on new confidence-building measures at the moment.

Mr. Gogas:  Has the Foreign Ministry received any demarches from the Turkish side on an alleged incident on the Imia islands? There has been an announcement by the Turkish General Staff pointing out violations of Turkish …

Mr. Delavekouras:  We have been monitoring all this, we know it, but I am trying to remember, something like that has never happened.

Mr. Pollatos
:    Maybe it is about a different region other than Imia and this is [off microphone]

Mr. Delavekouras:  The Turkish side has been making demarches in which it presents some of its views on events that have not happened as it presents them, and on the specific issue that your colleague asked me about, I do not remember him doing anything like that.

Mr. Pollatos: Was there a similar presentation of Ankara’s positions on Agathonisi?

Mr. Delavekouras
:  There was an overflight of Turkish forces over Agathonisi, over a Greek island, and this is why the demarches were made on our side, directly and clearly, as well as notifying international organizations which need to be informed. This is why there was a telephone conversation between the Greek Foreign Minister and his Turkish counterpart and this is why the Greek Prime Minister raised this issue so clearly in his speech.

Ms. Voudouri:  You said earlier that issues or the issue discussed at the exploratory talks is complicated and that you need time, if I understand correctly? Because on this pretext, I want to ask you – as my colleague Mr. Athanasopoulos has said – there have been exploratory contacts since 2004, is there a time frame? When are these exploratory contacts going to end for us to have recourse to the Hague Tribunal as the Prime Minister reiterated in Erzurum?

Mr. Delavekouras: I cannot say, I cannot put strict timeframes on this process, because it is an ongoing discussion which fully depends on the way in which the two sides present their positions, but it is a given fact that the issues of delimitation of maritime zones are very complex, they belong to the most difficult international disputes to be resolved, this is why there have been many cases that were brought before the courts, in order for a judicial solution to be found.  This is a legal dispute and this is why our position is that we must not allow this pending matter to continue. We give the necessary fillip and support to the process of exploratory contacts, but we are saying that if they finally do not or cannot reach a conclusion – due to the distance between the two countries – that we should have recourse to international justice.

Mr. Fourlis:  Since you mentioned maritime zones, exclusive issues are immediately brought to my mind. Are these issues such as the issue of Exclusive Economic Zones raised at the exploratory contacts concurrently with the continental shelf or within the framework of the discussion on the continental shelf because this issue is relevant?

Mr. Delavekouras:  Let me first of all say that Greece’s declared policy, which was pursued by the previous government and continues under the present government, is the delimitation of our maritime zones with all our neighbours.  This is how our agreement with Albania came about despite the matters that have come up regarding the Albanian Constitutional Court’s judgment. There are pending negotiations with Libya and Egypt and obviously our relationship with the Republic of Cyprus is such that would allow us to judge if it is in the interest of both countries to move ahead quickly. And finally, we have ongoing exploratory talks with Turkey.  But will you again allow me not to go into the content of the exploratory contacts. It is a rule that both sides have abided by to this day and it is important.

Mr. Fourlis:  Let me ask you a second question immediately:  Is it true that in yesterday’s talks with Mr. Liberman the Israeli side raised an issue of Israeli interest on the construction of a pipeline connecting the Leviathan deposit between Cyprus and Israel with the European Union through the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus and the sea region of Crete?

Mr. Delavekouras
:  This idea exists and it is obvious, that is, it is a given fact that Israel quite probably has significant natural gas deposits and it is in its interest to want to transport them to the European Union and it is a given fact that our country can play this role geographically. It was not discussed in detail yesterday. It has been discussed in the past as a possibility. What we saw yesterday is that there is good will and good intentions on both sides to cooperate on the energy sector.  Beyond that we will have to speak with specific facts.

Mr. Fourlis: I would like to ask two questions too.  The first has to do with what you said earlier about Turkey, that at the moment our relations are going through a more honest phase, I would like you to tell me in a more schematic way, how you would describe Greek-Israeli relations at the moment. Just a brief comment.  Secondly, I would like to ask you for the Foreign Ministry’s comment on the recent developments in Tunisia and whether you are in contact with the consular authorities in relation with certain security issues for Greek citizens or travelers in the neighbouring country.  Thank you.

Mr. Delavekouras
:  With regard to Greece's relations with Israel, this was extensively discussed at yesterday’s meeting between the two Foreign Ministers.  Our relations have gained a very strong dynamic, it is truly as though they had been frozen in time and we now find the opportunity to develop them.  There is a broad field for cooperation, the two countries can work complementarily and we can find real fields that can yield a lot for both sides.  This is precisely why the decision was taken to form a Ministerial Cooperation Council with Israel which is aimed at providing an institutional framework to this cooperation and set the time frame and specific goals in order to bring these results.  I think it is an obligation of both sides not to let this opportunity go to waste in order for us to lay solid foundations for our cooperation. 

So this is the current framework and within the coming quarter the first Cooperation Council will be held between the two countries and I hope that beyond that, we will be able to truly see great results for our cooperation. Indicatively, I will mention a few areas such as the environment, agricultural production, the area of tourism, the area of defense cooperation, the area of energy, renewable sources of energy, but also potentially energy cooperation in future.  There are a great many issues on which cooperation between our two countries can bring many benefits to both countries. 

And to come to your second question, it is obvious that the Foreign Ministry is constantly in contact with our diplomatic authorities in Tunisia, the situation is indeed worrying, there is fortunately no problem with local Greeks there, the few Greeks who live there, until now. Beyond that, we will continue to monitor the situation very carefully.

Mr. Fourlis: Thank you.

Mr. Delavekouras:  Thank you.

Mr. Fourlis: About Mr. Davutoglu’s visit to Athens…

Mr. Delavekouras:  It will probably be held in March.

Mr. Fourlis:  It is too early to ask you this, what exactly do you know about it, what will it be about?

Mr. Delavekouras:  It will be in preparation for the High-level Cooperation Council which will take place in July, and a reciprocal visit for the Greek Foreign Minister’s visit to Ankara before the first session of the High-level Cooperation Council in Athens in May.

Thank you very much.