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Foreign Minister N. Kotzias' interview in the newspaper Real News, with journalist V. Skouris

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Foreign Minister N. Kotzias' interview in the newspaper Real News, with journalist V. SkourisJOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, what will the possibility of having a solution to the Cyprus issue in the coming time depend upon?

N. KOTZIAS: It will depend on whether a common denominator is found that gives the maximum possible rights to the Turkish Cypriots and the maximum possible security to the Greek Cypriots. Regarding the latter, this necessitates the end of the occupation of Cyprus, the elimination of the system of guarantees, which is colonial in nature, and the withdrawal of foreign forces from Cyprus. That is, no one can have rights of intervention with regard to Cyprus. Turkey has to realise that, in the modern world, a third country cannot control an EU member state.

JOURNALIST: How far can Athens back down on the issue of guarantees, and mainly the continued presence of the Turkish army on the island, Mr. Minister?

N. KOTZIAS: Cyprus must evolve into a bizonal, bicommunal federation with full sovereignty as a member of the EU and the UN. The geopolitical interests of a third country cannot be a criterion for a solution to the Cyprus issue. Anyone who has a different opinion -- and of course they have a right to that -- has to tell us how they define 'the Cyprus problem." Is it a problem, in their opinion, that doesn't have to do with the issue of Sovereignty and the Occupation? Or do they perhaps want a solution of "a little sovereignty and a little occupation"? In any case, it will be more useful for them to state their opinion outright, rather than committing hubris, as they have been doing so far.

JOURNALIST: If the Turkish army remains on the island, Mr. Minister, will the Greek army remain too? And likewise, if a Turkish base in created, will a Greek one be created as well?

N. KOTZIAS: In contrast with the other sides, Greece, like the Republic of Cyprus, has submitted a number of proposals. Among these is a "Temporary Stationing Agreement" of the Foreign armed forces on the island. Something similar to (though not exactly the same as) what was agreed between Germany under unification and the Soviet Union. This agreement determined the legal status of the withdrawal of the Soviet military forces and the manner in which the flow of their withdrawal was to be monitored. For the same period of time, the same will hold for the Greek army as well. I note, of course, that the Hellenic Force in Cyprus (ELDYK) is legal on the island, while the many-times-larger occupation army is illegal.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the rotating Presidency raises concerns?

N. KOTZIAS: Whatever concerns the internal aspect of the Cyprus issue is exclusively a matter of negotiation for the Republic of Cyprus and the two communities. In contrast with others, we did not express an opinion on this aspect throughout the time of the nearly two-year negotiation. And we were right in that. It was a conscious choice on my part for us to talk only about the external aspect, regarding which, according to the international agreements, we (still) have responsibilities, obligations and competency. That is why we agree and are participating in the trilateral meeting of the guarantor powers under the UN, which, moreover, a) had been agreed to by President Anastasiades on 1 December 2016, b) had been agreed to from the start in the written agenda drawn up before we went to Geneva, and c) had been announced by the UN Secretary General. Correspondingly, there were three UN texts, by the evening of the 12th, determining that on 13 January 2017 the discussion would take place on the level of politicians.

JOURNALIST: Do you have assurances from Europe that it cannot accept a solution in which Ankara will essentially be a guardian of the leadership of the Republic of Cyprus?

N. KOTZIAS: The EU cannot accept rights of intervention or, therefore, guarantees on its territory. There are already expert legal opinions on this. But what's more, no one in the modern world can accept something like this for a member state of the UN. Let those who are railing against our policy explain to us, at long last, why they have another opinion and what they base it on.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that Erdogan can take decisions on compromise solutions before the referendum on his powers is carried out?

N. KOTZIAS: I think Erdogan is an intelligent, experienced, important leader of Turkey. He knows that problems are resolved through compromises. Creative compromises, not shoddy ones. It is up to him to make his choices regarding the Cyprus issue, and he will be judged just as we are all judged. How we are judged, of course, has to concern facts and not metaphysical questions.

JOURNALIST: Apart from Turkey, are there other forces in the negotiations who don't want a solution to the Cyprus problem? Or who want one in the way Turkey does?

N. KOTZIAS: There are forces who believed it would be easy to convince Greece to back down. Today, these forces appear to be very irritated, and they have passed their irritation on to a number of mouthpieces who specialize in slander. You see, they discovered that our fundamental national interests, Cyprus, the European acquis and international law cannot be a field of policy without principles. We are compromising and will compromise for there to be a solution, and we need to do that. But we will not back down on the solution of the core of the problem.

JOURNALIST: What will the Greece-Turkey-Cyprus Friendship Agreement include, Mr. Minister? What will its basic principles be?

N. KOTZIAS: We have proposed the elimination of the treaties of guarantees and that of the alliance. We proposed a friendship agreement based on the global historical experience that we studied carefully. Through this agreement, the three countries will cooperate against common current threats, including ecological threats, terrorism and organized crime. There will be a joint mechanism for cooperation and promotion of a positive agenda. What will be ruled out is the right of a country to intervene against or internally in another country. Some international players want to take the idea of this Agreement and "utilize" it against its spirit, as a new treaty of guarantees. We will not let this happen.

JOURNALIST: If the Cyprus problem isn't resolved, are you concerned about moves Ankara might make? There are those who are talking about 'Taiwan-ization' or even annexation of occupied Cyprus, as well as about provocations in the Aegean.

N. KOTZIAS: Greece and Turkey have agreed that the Cyprus issue is not linked to our bilateral relations. That is, they are not linked during the negotiation or due to any result of the negotiation. Regarding the scaremongering, I note that it is being used in an attempt to subdue the will of the Cypriot people.

JOURNALIST: In the event a solution isn't achieved, can Ankara, in cooperation with occupied Cyprus, proceed to exploitation of the hydrocarbons?

N. KOTZIAS: The other side's problem is that the hydrocarbons aren't located on the north side of Cyprus, but on the south. That international law supports the positions of the Republic of Cyprus. "God in his wisdom" arranged this. I hope -- and I am working for this -- that the Cyprus issue will be resolved and, by extension, that such problems or threats will not arise.

JOURNALIST: With your hand on your heart: Who doesn't want Nikos Kotzias to be the Foreign Minister at the Cyprus negotiations? Are they inside the country, or abroad?

N. KOTZIAS: During our two years in government, we have followed a proactive multidimensional foreign policy. We built alliances and helped the country raise its head above the surface of the water. Others had got used to something else, and they didn't like the change. They'll get used to it. Anyone who doesn't think about how Greece will win a negotiation, but learned to seek the path of surrendering to various pressures, certainly doesn't regard me as the "minister of his heart."

JOURNALIST: Relations with Alexis Tsipras and N. Anastasiades?

N. KOTZIAS: Comradely and patriotic.

JOURNALIST: Can N. Kotzias remain the Foreign Minister in the event of a solution that includes the continued presence of Turkish forces, beyond the transitional limit?

N. KOTZIAS: The solution we agree on -- and we want there to be a solution -- will be good and, consequently, render your question moot. If there isn't a solution, it won't be our fault. So the answer is the same. In any case, we will not become the agents of shoddy "solutions".

JOURNALIST: Might the solution or non-solution of the Cyprus problem positively or negatively impact the negotiation on the review?

N. KOTZIAS: I don't think that today -- I underscore today -- there is anyone who wants to link or can link these issues.

JOURNALIST: Donald Trump inaugurated as President of the United States. Will the balance of power change in the region, and what will happen in Washington's relations with Europe?

N. KOTZIAS: I believe the Trump administration will make two major shifts: first, it will strengthen the geoeconomic aspect of U.S. foreign policy and, by extension, strengthen it against "pure" geopolitics. Second, it will attempt a reversal of the policy of Nixon, 45 years ago. At that time, the U.S. endeavoured to drive a wedge between the People's
Republic of China and the Soviet Union, and to collaborate with the former against the latter. Now they will attempt a change to the triangle. The "opposing peak" being China, and probably Russia with the U.S. The EU is seen as being on a course of weakness and identity crisis. There are many in Washington who wonder where the EU is going and exactly what it wants. I believe that it would be a mistake for the EU not to identify and analyse the real problems. Questions to which Trump tried to provide his own answers.

JOURNALIST: And the EU?

N. KOTZIAS: Europe has a problem. It isn't just that it can't overcome one or another individual problem, like the Brexit, the refugee crisis or the economic crisis. It's that it is having a crisis of crisis management. It doesn't have a vision for the 21st century. The memoranda and sanctions displaced it values, and there is a trend towards its identity being limited to such measures and tools. That is why we need an extensive and sincere debate regarding the EU we want for the 21st century and how we can implement any plan we develop.

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