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Interview of Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias on “ANT1 TV”, with journalist Nikos Hatzinikolaou (4 October 2019)

Friday, 04 October 2019

JOURNALIST: We will now be talking to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, who welcomed his U.S. counterpart to Athens a short while ago. Good evening, Minister.

N. DENDIAS: Good evening, Mr. Hatzinikolaou. Good evening to your viewers.

JOURNALIST: I want to start with the simple question, what is on the agenda? To put it like a reporter: What does the U.S. Secretary of State have in his bags, and what do we want to get from these meetings?

N. DENDIAS: First of all, there is the final stage of the amendment of the defence cooperation agreement of 1990 between Greece and the United States. After months of negotiations, tomorrow morning we have scheduled the signing of the amendment of the agreement with the U.S. Secretary; an agreement that we regard as safeguarding our country, safeguarding our interests, increasing the American defence footprint in our region.

Beyond that, the talks with Mr. Pompeo will cover all of Greece’s interests. In other words, the situation in the Balkans, our relations with Turkey, the Cyprus issue, Turkey’s unacceptable provocations and violations of the sovereignty and sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus, and all of the broader issues of the Eastern Mediterranean.

This is the third time I’ve seen Mr. Pompeo in a space of less than three months, and it is also the first visit of a U.S. Secretary in a number of years. And I note that the last time, Mr. Kerry was in Athens for 2 or 3 hours, and Mr. Pompeo will be staying in Athens for 3 days.

JOURNALIST: I would like to ask about the latest developments with the country’s refugee and migration problem. I’d like to ask you whether and to what extent we are satisfied with the support, with the solidarity, of our partners in the European Union. And I ask this because I see a tolerant – that’s my word – stance, particularly from Germany towards Ankara.

N. DENDIAS: I wouldn’t call it tolerant, if I may. I see why you would use that word. I would be a little more lenient with our partners and say it’s a puzzled stance. That’s no excuse. They should have done more and been more prepared. In any event, however, I think that today our Prime Minister, seeing Mr. Seehofer and the competent Commissioner, Mr. Avramopoulos, I think he conveyed the right message, as he always does. Kyriakos Mitsotakis places the migration issue at the forefront of all his meetings with the European leaders and, as far as I know, he will be raising it at the next Summit Meeting. At the same time, the country is developing the reception system, the system for dealing with migration flows, so that we can deal with the much-increased pressure – let’s be honest – we are under on our borders in the Aegean.

JOURNALIST: I know you’re pressed for time, but I also want to pose a question about Greek-Turkish relations, under the weight and in the shadow of the new mission, a vessel, that is carrying out surveys in the Cypriot EEZ. In block 7 of the Cypriot EEZ. Ankara is escalating the provocations. How can Greece react? And to what extent, and by what means, can we support Cyprus?

N. DENDIAS: Our reading of the situation is that Turkey is trying desperately, in ways that diverge from international law and the Law of the Sea, to create accomplished facts and make Greece and the Republic of Cyprus lose their composure. And by losing their composure, lose their right – their legal high ground.

I’ll put it differently: We will not follow along with the Turkish escalation in the way Turkey wants us to. We will not allow the Eastern Mediterranean to return to the era of gunboat diplomacy, the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We will move ahead, armed with international law and the Law of the Sea, with the support and alignment, I hope, of our European partners and friends, and we will push Turkey into an impasse with its own provocations.

This situation can’t lead anywhere for Turkey. Speaking to the Turkish Foreign Minister, I explained clearly that, beyond my position as a Greek Minister and beyond the interests of Hellenism, what Turkey is doing is wrong for Turkey. It is isolating itself, excluding itself, turning itself into a pariah in Europe and the region and a troublemaker in the region. This doesn't lead anywhere.

And you’ll see as things develop that, in the end, Turkey will change course and back down, sooner or later, to come into line with international law. By having expensive survey ships roaming the Eastern Mediterranean and trying to create a precedent, or violating international law, it gains very little. It loses a great deal and gains very little.

JOURNALIST: I thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, very much. Thank you, Minister.

N. DENDIAS:  I thank you very much, Mr. Hatzinikolaou.