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Briefing of Greek correspondents by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias (Washington D.C., 22 May 2018)
N. KOTZIAS: I think if one compares the trips we have made to Washington – I remember the trip in April 2015 – with this year’s trip, in 2018, there is a huge difference. Acknowledgement of Greece’s role in the region is greater than ever before. The initiatives we are taking in our foreign policy are the subject of consultations and study by the Americans.
The main subjects we discussed were, first, the further development of our strategic relationship with regard to energy issues, energy security, as well as issues of agricultural cooperation, cultural cooperation, cooperation in the education sector, investments and economy.
Second, we talked about the problems in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region. The Americans expressed their concerns regarding developments in the region and we talked about ways of ensuring peace.
Third, we discussed about the Balkans, our country’s policy for stability and the initiatives we are taking. As most countries have done, the Americans reaffirmed their recognition of the positive effect of Greece’s initiatives. In my experience, when we have a proactive foreign policy and take initiatives, no one can meddle or ask to have a say in these initiatives or our foreign policy. This also concerns Skopje. Regarding Skopje, as you know, I am in ongoing consultation and collaboration with Prime Minister Tsipras and our views coincide. Moreover, what interested the Americans a great deal was the issue of Turkey. I would say that their inclination was to listen, to hear our analyses. As I see it, they are considering how to deal with new situations, new alliances in the region.
JOURNALIST: Could you add a couple of things to what the Americans said in their announcement regarding the strategic dialogue?
N. KOTZIAS: As I said, the Americans see that our country is taking exceptional initiatives. Like most of our partners in the West and in the East, they are impressed by many things. I will give you two examples. One concerns our initiative for protection of the religious and cultural communities in the Middle East. In other words, the meeting we had in Athens a few months ago, where one saw the colours of all religions – green, mauve, white, black and so on – as the leaders of all the religions and churches of the Middle East had come together in Athens. They are impressed because we are the only country that can bring together, in a climate of trust, the leaders of the most disparate religions and churches.
The second and more recent thing that impressed them was the meeting we held in Sounion. That fact that we could bring everyone to Athens and talk openly and boldly about all of the issues concerning the development and the future of the EU with the Visegrad countries, with other states, like Slovenia, that are in Eastern Europe, with all of the candidate countries of the Western Balkans, plus the countries that make up the B-4 group; that is, the cooperation between the four EU members states of the Balkans: Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. Because, as you know, we have other cooperation schemes, like the one with Serbia, and a very important cross-border platform that met recently in Thessaloniki, with fYROM, Bulgaria and Albania.
I think the Americans know we are a strong force for and pole of stability and security in our region, and they are very interested in being in a dialogue with us and drawing from our experience and views, which they listen to very attentively. These are very frank views.
JOURNALIST: Can you tell us anything about your meeting with Bolton?
N. KOTZIAS: The meeting with Mr. Bolton lasted twice as long as it was scheduled, for. Mr. Bolton, like Mr. Pompeo, was inclined to listen. He made very interesting comments and had many questions. Our discussion concerned the strategic policies in the region; Turkey's contrasts and contradictions and where this system is heading; the issues of energy routes and the securing of energy resources for the countries to whom those resources belong – Cyprus, Egypt, Israel – and the further development, in the future, of Greek-American relations. What impresses me a great deal is, first, that the Americans want to hear our opinion, even though our opinions are different; they are very interested in our experience.
We also talked about how and where the Skopje issue is going. As you know, we also discussed with Mr. Mitchell. We are under no pressure on the Skopje issue, and no one intends to put any pressure on us. We would never accept any pressure. But they are very interested in the resolution of this issue, and they are trying to understand where the negotiations stand and what the difficult points are. As you know, the negotiations will continue on Thursday and Friday, in the presence of Mr. Nimetz. The technical teams that meet in conjunction with the main negotiations will also be meeting. You should know that we have drawn up a long text – the Greek side has drawn in up. This text, together with the legal text drawn up by Mr. Nimetz – we undertook to put this into a single text in which the second part concerns the future cooperation between Greece and fYROM; the prospects, in other words, for cooperation on matters of education, research and so forth. The first part of the text concerns issues linked to the name issue. Above all, the issue of irredentism, which we have to eliminate. And there is also the chapter on recognition of all international legal realities, borders, the inviolability of borders, that neither side can propagandise or leave room for propaganda against the other side, and so on.