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Deputy Foreign Minister Ioannis Amanatidis’ speech relating to issues of foreign policy (Kilkis, 4 February 2017)

Sunday, 05 February 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen,

2017 is not like 2015, because the world is continuously changing around us and, in an unprecedented climate of fluidity, Greece constitutes a pillar of stability, solvency, and peace.

From the Mediterranean Basin all the way to the other side of the Atlantic, the changes in the world political map are huge, and Greece is one of the countries that guarantees security in the wider region. This role of ours, nonetheless, as an island of stability, does not mean under any circumstances that we have surrendered our sovereign rights. And let me be clear: Grey zones in the Aegean do not exist. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reiterated this again yesterday from Malta, and we make it clear here as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to focus on the global challenges that marked these past two years. I only have to remind you of the statements of the former UN Secretary, General Ban Ki-moon, Pope Francis, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and so many other prominent figures regarding the Greek nation's solidarity with refugees.

As descendants of refugees ourselves, we have not forgotten our commitment to compassion that our grandfathers and grandmothers from Pontus, Asia Minor and Eastern Rumelia handed down to us. Yourselves the descendants of refugees to Kilkis, you have reminded humanity what the words hospitality, brotherly love, and compassion signify. Despite the various difficulties due to the unprecedented nature of the situation, Idomeni spread wide its arms, and the residents of Kilkis opened their hearts and homes, because you are able to understand and remember. All of us stand before your compassion and selflessness with great awe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Greece no longer looks like a country with no future in the eyes of the world, as hard as certain conservative European circles may try to paint it as such. The world is changing, Europe is changing, international relations are being reassessed, and now the vast majority of our partners are showing utter comprehension of the position, the stance, the valid demands of the Greek side, on all issues, as much for that which pertains to handling of the refugee crisis, as to Greek-Turkish relations, as well as issues relating the county’s economy and progress.

A great ally of ours, moreover, is the great positive achievement of, the positive surpassing of, all economic goals on the part of Greece recently.

At the same time, Greece desires the establishment of peace, which will be achieved through building and further developing networks for communication, transport, and exchange, which will contribute to building relationships of interaction, understanding, and reliance among nations and peoples.

More specifically, Greece:

• Is building and developing models of trilateral cooperation whose main pillars are Greece and Cyprus, with the participation of non-EU countries (Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine).

• Has created the following quadrilateral models of collaboration, which pertain, in fact, to our region.

The intra-European quadrilateral model, with the participation of Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania.

The cross-border quadrilateral model with the participation Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, FYROM, for collaboration in the areas of border control, quashing of illegal immigration, and in the fight against terrorism. Furthermore, special importance is attached to the humanitarian aspect of actions pertaining to cooperation and coordination in the area of the handling of the refugee and immigration crisis.

At the same time, we are organizing Conferences which promote dialogue, interaction, and regional cooperation, highlighting the importance of intercultural and interfaith dialogue as a means of creating a climate of peace and security in the wider region. More specifically, I would like to stress:

a. the International Conference on “Cultural and Religious Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East,” through which we promote harmonious coexistence in multicultural societies, and respect for diversity. The Conference will be held again this year during the first week of November. This time, in fact, we will organize it together with Austria, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

b. The Rhodes Conference for Security and Stability, of which we have established the second such Meeting, for which we are already preparing in June 2017. During the first organization of the specific initiative, (Rhodes 8-9 September 2016) the opportunity was given, for the first time, to nations of South-eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, to discuss the problems pertaining to the Eastern Mediterranean, a tumultuous region of great geopolitical importance, which is plagued by wars and lengthy battles, nonetheless stressing the enduring importance of the right to multiculturalism and religious diversity.

Additionally, we have been a leader in the efforts for the establishment of the GC10, the group of 10 nations representing the world's 10 most ancient civilizations. We attach particular importance to our relationship with China and we are pleased that the latter wholeheartedly support this initiative of ours, which we hope will materialize, through which other useful actions may be promoted.

At the same time, Greek Foreign Policy is being adjusted to fit the needs of emerging international trends and conditions, and accordingly the country’s geographical representation is being reconfigured. Thus, opening of an Embassy in Singapore is expected, as well as that of a Consulate General in Erbil. Additionally, The Greek Embassy in Libya is excepted to recommence operations.

As far as our relationship with the Russian Federation, the common initiative for the commemorative Year 2016 proved to be a very successful tool in strengthening of bilateral relations between our countries and contact between the peoples of Russia and Greece. The public in both countries responded to the Programme’s events with marked interest. In many cases, interest in future cooperation was sparked between the two parties which organized them.

And, of course, we organized and coordinated visits of great importance on the part of foreign leaders, such as that of the former President the United Sate, B. Obama, as well as the President of Russia, V. Putin, which once again granted a global aura to Greece.

Regarding the region of the Balkans, there has been Greek diplomatic success as concerns inclusion of all five priorities that have been set as basic prerequisites in examining possible commencement of the EU accession negotiation for Albania into the document of the conclusions drawn up by the Slovenian Presidency of the EU General Affairs Council (12/2016).

As regards our country’s relationship with the FYROM, the added value of the Confidence Building Measures must be noted - measures which include the natural gas pipeline, the Bitola-Florina rail line, as well as cooperation between police, fire brigades, and also between universities and research centres in both countries - as this pertains to a multifaceted and intensive cooperation which dismantles prejudices and aims to neutralise irredentist and nationalistic tendencies.

It must be emphasized that we are at a critical juncture of historic proportions in terms of negotiations for the solution of the issue of Cyprus, as well as our relationship with our neighbouring country, Turkey.

More specifically, regarding the issue of Cyprus, I would like to reiterate, given the events that took place at the Conference in Geneva and the technical-level meetings at Mont Pelerin, that clear upgrading of the importance of the issues of eliminating the archaic system of guarantees and withdrawal of occupying forces from Cyprus, in the framework of the developing negotiations, represents a diplomatic success.

Finally, regarding issues related to the administration of the Ministry, we have submitted a bill to Parliament relative to changes in the Statutes of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to further modernize its operation and to strengthen the scientific support of the actions of Greek diplomacy.

Thank you.