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Briefing of diplomatic correspondents by Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras

Thursday, 06 December 2012

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Good afternoon. I have the pleasure of presenting Konstantinos Koutras, who has taken up the duties of Alternate Spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry. I’ll let you know his contact information.

I’ll start with the programme for the coming week.

On Friday, 7 December, Foreign Minister Avramopoulos will have talks with his Lebanese counterpart Adnan Mansour, within the framework of Lebanese President Michel Sleiman’s state visit to Greece.

On Monday and Tuesday, 10 and 11 December, Mr. Avramopoulos will be in Brussels to participate in the proceedings of the Foreign Affairs and General Affairs Councils (FAC/GAC). He will be accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Kourkoulas.

At the FAC working luncheon on Monday, 10 December, the Foreign Ministers will discuss the Middle East peace process. Then, at the afternoon meeting, they will discuss developments in the Western Balkans, with emphasis on the political situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Belgrade-Pristina talks, the Southern Neighbourhood – with the focus on Syria – EU-Russian relations and EU-U.S. relations, including U.S. foreign policy administration priorities following the 6 November elections.

At the GAC, on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministers will discuss, among other things, preparations for the European Council of 13-14 December. European Council President Rompuy will host a working luncheon, and the afternoon session of the GAC will look at the enlargement policy conclusions.

On Wednesday, 12 December, Mr. Avramopoulos will participate in the 4th meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People Group, in Morocco, at the invitation of his Moroccan counterpart. The Wednesday morning Ministerial Meeting will be followed by a working luncheon hosted by the Moroccan Foreign Minister for delegation heads.

On Tuesday, 11 December, Deputy Foreign Minister Tsiaras will meet at the Foreign Ministry with Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo. On the same day, the Mount Athos Committee will meet under the chairmanship of Mr. Tsiaras.

On Wednesday, 12 December, Foreign Ministry Secretary General Kaskarelis will meet with Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks, within the framework of the latter’s visit to Greece.

Foreign Ministry Secretary General for International Economic Relations and Development Cooperation Mihalos will be the keynote speaker, on Friday, 7 December, at a meeting of the Greek-Lebanese Business Council, which is being organized by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) and the Arab-Greek Chamber of Commerce and Development, within the framework of the Lebanese President’s state visit to Greece.

On the same day, he will meet with a Chinese Foreign Ministry delegation that is visiting Greece, Italy and Spain to explore new potential for investments.

On Wednesday, 12 December, Mr. Mihalos will meet with the Vice Chairman of the Chinese Council for Promotion of International Trade, Mr. Wang Jinzhen, and representatives of major Chinese enterprises, including ICBC and the China State Shipbuilding Corporation.

Finally, on Friday, 14 December, Mr. Mihalos will participate in a roundtable discussion on “Development potential and prospects in the sectors of environment and clean energy,” which will take place within the framework of the Greek Technical Chamber’s “Environment and Development” conference.

As we said, the 4th Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People will take place in Marrakech. Journalists interested in covering the event can find information on the accreditation process on the Moroccan Foreign Ministry’s website.

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

P. PAPATHANASIOU: Mr. Spokesman, what did the NATO Ministerial conclude regarding the Western Balkan space, and particularly regarding the Alliance’s relations with Serbia and the Kosovo issue? Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: As you know, within the framework of the meeting of the Council of Foreign Minister’s, there was a discussion of all the issues, including developments in the Western Balkans, a region that is of great concern to the European Union, particularly as to the relevant efforts for all the countries of the regions to come closer to European and Euroatlantic institutions. There are still some major challenges that we have to face, and the Alliance is well aware of those challenges, just as similar efforts are being made within the framework of the EU.

The objective of our efforts, as I just said, if for each country in the region to come closer and closer to European standards, to meet the criteria and conditions that have been set so that they can proceed smoothly on their course towards these institutions.

Beyond that, regarding Kosovo, which you mentioned, the Belgrade-Pristina talks are in progress and have already brought results, and it is important for those talks to continue. Greece’s position is that we need to follow the diplomatic path. We need to give dialogue a chance. We need to seek consensus that will produce viable solutions. We believe that the whole region belongs in the European Union, in the European family, and in the Euroatlantic institutions. And that is why we are continuing to work for this.

S. RISTOVSKA: Mr. Spokesman, Deputy Foreign Minister Kourkoulas, speaking the day before yesterday on the TV show “Ston Eniko”, said that, beyond the issue of the name, there are other issues, such as language, identity. Does this mean that the Greek side will seek a solution on the other issues as well, and not just on the name issue? And a second question regarding Mr. Nimetz’s proposals: whether you have looked at them, studied them, because you said that when you had considered them carefully, you would announce your assessment. Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Regarding your first question, I’ll start by saying that, unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to see the interview you are referring to, so I don’t know precisely what was said on the show.

What I can say is that the subject of the negotiations is set down clearly in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions – Resolutions 817 and 845 – and in the Interim Accord. What Greece wants to do is achieve a solution, and that presupposes the existence of political will.

We have taken major initiatives throughout these years so that steps forward might be made, and I think that the most important initiative was the resent letter/proposal of the Greek Foreign Minister, through which our country proposed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding that would set out precisely the framework that could give us the parameters that need to be respected if we are to reach a solution.

Unfortunately, the response we got from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia lacked substance. We did get a letter, but it contained no substantial response to the specific framework proposed by Greece.

As for the matter of other issues, other issues are obviously being discussed in the context of the negotiations, but the central issue, the essential issue, as set down in Resolutions 817 and 845, is – as you well know – the finding of a mutually acceptable solution on the name issue.

At the trilateral meeting that took place between Mr. Nimetz and the two countries’ negotiators, in New York, Mr. Nimetz mentioned some old and new ideas that were discussed. These are in fact being studied by the Foreign Ministry in the constructive spirit that we have shown throughout these years. We are studying the proposals in this spirit, and I will let you know when we have anything new to announce to you.

M. KOTOVSKA: After the statements, yesterday, of the Deputy Foreign Minister Kourkoulas and before that, we had a statement from the Greek President. I wanted to ask you, is the Greek Republic aside with the constitutional name of the ***, having also some issues or problems during *** "Macedonian", such as the "Macedonian" language, "Macedonian" culture, "Macedonian" issue or nationality?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: As I have already said, I have not seen the interview in question. Greece’s longstanding position is that the use of the qualifiers you gave examples of is directly linked to the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the ongoing negotiations. That is why it is Greece’s clear position, in all the international fora in which we participate, that these terms should not be used.

Beyond that, I repeat that Greece continues, in a constructive spirit, to pursue and work for a solution that will enable us to tap the great dynamic that exists in the relations between our two countries. Let’s not forget that we are next-door neighbours in this region, and that we have every interest in, and much to gain from, cooperating – not just in a bilateral framework, but for regional stability, which is expressly referred to in UN Security Council Resolution 817; that is, that the resolution of the name issue is vital to consolidating the stability of our region. Such a step would be tangible proof of good neighbourly relations, and it would impart significant impetus to the European and Euroatlantic perspective of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

A. BIBE: Mr. Spokesman, a comment on the issue of President Berisha’s statements yesterday – for Albanian citizenship to be given to everyone who wants it. How does Athens see this move? Second, whether Athens is satisfied with President Berisha’s clarifications regarding his statements involving Preveza. Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: We have heard the relevant statements on this issue, but we have yet to see legislation be drawn up, how it will be implemented, and what its relationship to and compatibility with accession to the EU will be. These are all things that we have to look at very carefully.

As for the issue of the statements, I would first like to note that other statements were also made, like the statement from the President of Albania, Mr. Nishani, and to say that we need to be very careful in our region, precisely because nationalism is a real threat. The rise in nationalism of late – in a region like the Balkans, which has suffered greatly from nationalistic, irredentist conduct and stances – needs to be brought under control. We cannot allow this rise in nationalism to continue.

There was in fact a retraction from Prime Minister Berisha. We note that, and we want to work so that our whole region can come closer to European standards. I think that this is in Albania’s interest and in the interest of the Albanian people, whom Greece has supported all these years.

But it needs to be clear that we will not tolerate moves, nationalistic stances, that drag our region back. We need to look to the future and, together, build our common European future.

Any other questions?

Thank you very much.