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Interview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, on ‘Sto Kokkino’ radio, with journalist N. Sverkos (Athens, 3 July 2018)

Tuesday, 03 July 2018

Interview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, on ‘Sto Kokkino’ radio, with journalist N. Sverkos (Athens, 3 July 2018)JOURNALIST: We announced that we would be interviewing the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, who is already on the line.
Good morning, Mr. Kotzias.

N. KOTZIAS: Good morning to your listeners.

JOURNALIST: There’s nothing to do but start, Mr. Minister.

N. KOTZIAS: I have no desire to comment on Mr. Kammenos, if that’s what you want to start with. It’s not within my competency. The agreement is good. The agreement does not concede national sovereignty, and thus there is no issue of 180 votes being required to pass it. Mr. Kammenos knows this. He is making his political choices, and we are all taking measure of the situation, but it isn’t an issue I would respond on.
JOURNALIST: Beyond that, however, do you believe there are MPs who will support the agreement and give a vote of confidence to the government? I ask because there is now an issue of ...

N. KOTZIAS: These are two different things. First, for the next six months a vote of confidence cannot be called. Mr. Mitsotakis played that card, having arranged with certain portions of the oligarchy to exert pressure on MPs who are supporting the government.

Second: A vote of confidence is one thing; passing the agreement on the Skopje issue is another. The agreement on the Skopje issue has a majority of MPs in Parliament – according to the inclination showed by the MPs themselves, and not just in my opinion.

The thing is, up until it comes before parliament, we need to do serious work explaining the agreement. We find that people don’t understand basic aspects of it or that the facts of the agreement are being systematically distorted by the opposition.

JOURNALIST: Let’s look at that, because it’s very interesting. Greece has reached an agreement with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. A lot has been heard about the agreement. There has been a lot of distortion.

But we are now going to the next level. Do you think the agreement will move ahead, first of all, in our neighbouring country? Because we see various ...

N. KOTZIAS: Look. The agreement is already moving ahead. It was passed in their Parliament by 69 to 0. President Ivanov, who is from the ‘Gruevski camp’, from the ‘New Democracy’ camp, has rejected this agreement, has refused to sign it on the argument that it renders North Macedonia subservient to and a hostage of Greece. In other words, he is saying exactly the reverse of what New Democracy is saying here. But essentially, in terms of methodology, they are saying the same thing.

The Gruevski supporters and Ivanov and New Democracy believe that the respective countries in which they live and act have conceded everything to the other country. In other words, Ivanov is accusing Zaev of conceding everything. New Democracy is accusing Tsipras of conceding everything, and essentially they have something in common. They don’t want agreements. They don't want peace. They don’t want peaceful coexistence among the peoples of the Balkans.
They live and feed on an ill-conceived nationalism, on a far-right motif and on hostility towards and belittlement of third peoples; an ill-conceived nationalism that has nothing to do with patriotism. They are both using the same motif. And in Parliament, if you remember, I asked – smiling at the Prime Minister – how was it possible for us to have an agreement that New Democracy says gives everything, while in Skopje they – New Democracy’s counterparts – say they have an agreement that gives everything to us. And the answer is either that we have two separate agreements and we are playing a joke on our people, which isn’t the case, or that there is an agreement that resolves the issues created by New Democracy and PASOK. Neither New Democracy nor PASOK likes solutions to problems; they like to live on and perpetuate problems.

Ivanov and the opposition in Greece have a common stance. They are against the agreement.

JOURNALIST: They are against the agreement. Beyond that, of course, you are also being criticized with regard to the stance of certain member states of the European Union in the recent discussions you had in the context of the Council of the European Union. You are being criticized for perhaps rushing into an agreement, because there is now a postponement – within a reasonable timeframe, of course. But you are being criticized because our neighbour’s accession negotiations with the European Union have been put off.

N. KOTZIAS: First of all, the accession negotiations have not begun. What we agreed on last Monday is that the accession negotiations will begin in June 2019. This means the following: that in the coming months the Commission has to do the so-called real work, preparatory work, so that the current Commission – and this is very important – and the current High Representative for foreign affairs and Vice President of the Commission, Mrs. Mogherini, can be in a position to open the negotiations. Because the proposals concerning and opposed to the negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania were for the negotiations to begin after the end of 2019 and thus under a new Commission formed after the European elections, so that we would have to carry out another assessment before opening the negotiations. These are two different things.

And the other thing I wanted to say: the agreement with fYROM is not an agreement that we concluded so they could join the European Union and NATO. This country certainly wanted the agreement so that these processes wouldn’t be blocked. FYROM wants to join. We aren’t the ones who have made an issue of its joining or not joining.

We resolved the problem because we believe it benefits our country, regardless of whether there is a European Union or NATO. We did it to resolve the problems that are keeping us prisoners of history and, together with these peoples, to look to the future and have a choice. What was our choice? Do we want to have friends or enemies to our north?

Second. Do we believe that any problems we have with our friends – and I underscore this – to the north are bigger and of greater importance than those we have with Turkey geopolitically or geostrategically?

In other word, should we perhaps resolve our problems with Turkey and focus our energies on Skopje, or should we resolve our problems with Skopje in some rational manner and focus our energies on what we have been calling for over a century now the ‘eastern question’?

I think it is obvious that it is in our national interest to do the latter. What is more – and we are all well aware of this – our country is emerging from the crisis. To come out of the crisis with good growth rates, it needs to have a wider geographical environment that is moving towards growth.

Unfortunately, in our southern and south-eastern environments there are the wars in Syria and Iraq, and the situation in Libya. We have the problems we have with Turkey. What is it that we need to take care of? We need to put the whole of Southeast Europe and the Balkans on a common growth course. And to do this, it is in our interest to resolve our problems rationally so that we can collaborate with these countries.

JOURNALIST: Beyond that, there is another risk that has been pointed out by analysts, and it is the risk of Turkey’s penetrating the Balkans. What does this mean for Greece in practical terms, and how can it be averted? Can it still be averted?

N. KOTZIAS: Greece always has to bear in mind that there are forces in Turkey – I’m not saying every Turkish government, every Turkish minister, but there are forces, the Turkish deep state – who would like to create what I call a ‘pincer’. In other words, for Greece to be caught between the East and its north and north-west, with the latter two under the influence and control of Turkey. In this direction, Turkey worked systematically to train the elite of these states, including their military elite; in other words, the mid-level and senior officers of these states.

It also wanted to create bases. Not only in Albania – I remind you of the naval base in Durrës – but also in North Macedonia. Let’s say that, through our policy, we halted this momentum. It is in our interest for these countries to be oriented towards Europe and towards cooperation with us, rather than being oriented towards Turkey.

Let me add what I am constantly being told, especially by the Albanians of the North Macedonia: that the danger is that, if we don’t resolve this problem in good time, the Albanians and other Muslims in North Macedonia will come more and more under the influence of fundamentalist Islamic currents that, through circles in Turkey – not official Turkey, I underscore – were trying to convert the latent Albanian nationalism into a fanatical Islamism, with serious implications for our region’s stability and security.

It seems the critics – the people asking me why I am doing this now instead of pushing the issue through later on – want to ignore or forget all of this. There are major problems that could lead either to the destabilisation of the region, with serious repercussions, particularly for northern Greece, or to the region’s coming under Turkish influence, with major long-term problems for the country’s strategic position.

JOURNALIST: Let’s look a little at developments here in Greece. How do you interpret the fact that when the discussions started between Greece and North Macedonia, as you rightly refer to it now – how do you interpret the fact that there were large demonstrations at the beginning of the negotiations, and now the gatherings don’t exceed 100 or 200 people?

N. KOTZIAS: I think people are gradually coming to understand that this agreement will benefit Greece. I understand an argument that is both sentimental and highly charged, because it is an argument over identity; issues of identity. These same issues may not be the most important ones for the state, because the most important issues for the state are geostrategic and geopolitical issues. But each person is conscious of who they are, their role, their identity, their history, their heritage. There was an effort to create the impression that we were conceding everything, just as the new government in Skopje was accused of conceding everything.

Gradually, people are coming to understand that our policy is what led to the renaming of the airport from ‘Alexander the Great’ to ‘Skopje International Airport’, the renaming of the motorway linking the Greek border with Skopje as ‘Friendship Motorway’. Our policy led to the statues and ancient Greek monuments being taken down in Skopje. And those that have not been taken down will be fitted with plaques saying they are expressions of friendship with Greece and its ancient civilization.

They realised that the ‘Macedonian language’, which was recognised in 1977 by the conservative government, not to say by the Karamanlis government as early as 1958 [...] The agreement makes it very clear that it is a Slavic language, so this is a non-issue.

JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, we can’t hear you.

N. KOTZIAS: ... and people are gradually coming to understand that we are ending the irredentism, securing our borders, securing long-term cooperation.

I always say that we have a certain ‘success’ in this region of the world – not just in Greece, but in this region of Europe – with names. Consider how many couples argue over what to name their daughter or son; whether they’ll take the name of one in-law or the other. And sometimes these couples end up getting divorced.

The Greek people understand from their history and their interests that this is not something over which to get divorced. As a result, as all of the surveys every two weeks are showing more and more, gradually, I think: in other words, opposition to this agreement is going down by about 10% every two weeks.

I think the agreement will have the support of the vast majority of the Greek people when it comes before Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe the surveys that have been published? Because a number of players are using them to support their positions, like Mr. Tzitzikostas, who is asking for a referendum so we can find out what people really think.

N. KOTZIAS: First of all, I think Mr. Tzitzikostas has a problem with what he himself believes, because he has changed his tune from what he said in the past. He wants to play the leader, either of New Democracy or of some far-right party and ‘northern league’. It is a matter of how a politician counting votes changes his stances at the drop of a hat.

Second. This delusion that they will play with the Macedonia issue to the detriment of Greece’s long-term interests is combined with surveys that came out at the start of the negotiations, giving opponents to the agreement 85%, 87%.

Current surveys carried out by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs show opposition at 55%-45%. In fact, the qualitative indicators show that the majority of people respect the work we have done on this issue.

JOURNALIST: Let me ask you a personal question before we go to our first commercial break.

You said recently that you have received death threats. In various forms. Was there any reaction of support from New Democracy or the opposition parties in general. Did they call you to express their support or anything?

N. KOTZIAS: I think the first time this was made public – not by me, by the police, and there was a front-page photo of the bullets I received in the newspapers of the Marinakis conglomerate – they made positive statements supporting me and condemning these phenomena.

But since these incidents have multiplied, they’ve stopped talking about them. And I would say that New Democracy – a large portion of it, not the majority – is the major contributor to the slander against me. Even in Parliament, they said some awful things, for which I will of course be taking them to court.

JOURNALIST: Right. And one last thing. What exactly does this agreement mean for you? And I’m talking about on a political and personal level, because some people have even suggested that you are actually doing all of this to create your legacy, and various things like that.

N. KOTZIAS: If it gives me a legacy, that means I was right to do it. (laughter) Listen, since I became Minister of Foreign Affairs I have had a motto – I have mottoes on various issues, but this one is with regard to fYROM – and this motto is that history should not be used as a prison, but as a school. In other words, history is not a prison, it is a school. I think I took a major step towards freeing the country from a past imprisoned by an issue that should not continue to be a cause for our inertia in the face of trends toward destabilisation in the region. I did my duty to my homeland.

JOURNALIST: Mr. Kotzias, we are taking a first break for commercials and we’ll be back right afterwards to continue our conversation.

BREAK

JOURNALIST: We are continuing our very interesting discussion with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kotzias, who we invited to talk about the whole range of foreign policy issues. Mr. Kotzias, are you on the line?

N. KOTZIAS: I’m listening very carefully, as always.

JOURNALIST: I want to go to another issue that appears to be opening up before us. Of course, you have been preparing this for a number of months now, but the opposition seems to be discovering it and rigging up new narratives. I’m talking about the matters under discussion with our neighbour Albania.

You are coming in for criticism for discussing ‘Chameria’ issues, and at the same time it is being heard that the agreement with Albania will put ...

N. KOTZIAS: I never discussed, never agreed to discuss and will never discuss ‘Chameria’ issues.

The only government to have discussed such issues – and I have witnesses to the discussions that took place – was the New Democracy government in the 1990s.

JOURNALIST: So the New Democracy government in the 1990s discussed ‘Chameria’ issues?

N. KOTZIAS: Yes.

JOURNALIST: Right. But it is also being said that, in the impending agreement you are discussing, the issue of the term ‘Northern Epirus’ will be raised. What is actually the case?

N. KOTZIAS: No issue of the term ‘Northern Epirus’ is being raised, just as it is ridiculous that some people think Northern Epirus belongs to Greece. Because what they are accusing me of is bartering away Northern Epirus.

In other words, we need to understand each other: Do we recognize the borders as formulated based on the Helsinki Final Act? Do we recognize the Paris final act of 1926? Do we recognize the results of the two World Wars? Do we recognize and want to support international law?

Because I hear some people who are reminiscent of the worst versions of Turkish foreign policy, when it manifests an intention to revise borders, Treaties and conduct. These aren’t games. Some people are playing petty politicking games, and in New Democracy they are telling brazen lies, that we are supposedly exchanging ‘Chameria’ for Northern Epirus and so on. And it seems they are forgetting that what we call Northern Epirus today belongs to a sovereign and independent state and that we ... They need to tell us straight out: Do they want a change of borders? Do they want to go to war so we can change the borders? Do we want to become the worst version of Turkish foreign policy, or do we continue to believe in international law and to back and implement international agreements?

These are serious issues, not games. The opposition has taken up these things and is playing with the country’s future. Because, as I said in Parliament, what was characteristic of New Democracy and, further back, Pasok, was that they used these issues to create rather than solve problems.

JOURNALIST: The previous agreement on the EEZ was revoked by the Albanian Constitutional Court.

N. KOTZIAS: And by Albania itself, yes. Because it was an agreement that wasn’t made in order to be implemented.

JOURNALIST: And it stalled here, as well, let’s not forget.

N. KOTZIAS: Here, for reasons no one has explained to me, New Democracy did not bring the agreement before Parliament, even though it considered the agreement a major success. I have heard the argument that it didn’t have time, because the government fell – in other words, in 2009, after a few months, it fell.
If we assume this is true, and I don’t believe it, the question remains: in 2012, when New Democracy returned to power with Mr. Samaras, who follows this kind of thinking, why didn’t they ratify the agreement in the course of those two and a half years? They say, “because it was revoked by Albania’s Constitutional Court.” So we have to draw the following conclusion: either it was a mistake that they didn’t bring the agreement to Parliament for ratification in 2012, or they were right in bearing in mind the ruling of the Albanian Constitutional Court and they should have looked into how to pursue the issue.

JOURNALIST: Today, what have we done differently as a country, in terms of foreign policy, to avoid the risk of such an agreement being revoked by our neighbour?

N. KOTZIAS: Listen, the agreements that need to be made have to abide by certain principles. The first principle is that they be constructed in such a way that they can be implemented, and not in such a way that they can be celebrated but not implemented. In other words, the agreement can’t just be an empty suit, with me modelling the empty suit. In any case, I’m too big to model the suit!

The second is that it cannot lead to revisionist processes. I remind you that, following WWI and the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was put under international control, especially in the regions where they produced coal at the time, under French control, and the reparations it had to pay were huge. In the 1920s Germany was forced to take two huge loans from America to pay of a portion of these debts, and when it could stand on its feet again, it move ahead to World War II.

What happened? The bad agreement made Germany a revisionist power. When it was weak, it accepted the agreement. As soon as it started to recover its strength, it made revision of its primary goal. As a result, Nazism was able to come to power. So you have to do these two things in international agreements.

The agreement we are making with North Macedonia and the one we are working on with Albania – and we’ll see when it’s ready – are agreements that have to stand the test of time. They have to resolve rather than create problems, as the two sides come to understand and accept them over time, with both sides winning from the agreement.

They all need to remember that we didn’t go to war. We didn’t defeat Albania or North Macedonia on the field of battle yesterday. And as such we cannot dictate the terms of their surrender. What we want to do, in fact, is make agreements founded on international law; win-win agreements that stabilise our relations and the region.

JOURNALIST: Right. Will the agreement you are discussing also end the state of war? And I’m asking because this perpetuation of the state of war, along with a number of other issues, is impacting thousands of people who are living in Greece right now.

N. KOTZIAS: Look, when Italy conquered Albania, it made Albania part of the Italian monarchy. It was the so-called Italian-Albanian monarchy. It was called that in Albania, not in Italy. This monarchy – Italy and, by extension, Albania – declared war on Greece. As soon as the Italian monarchy, through Albania, declared war on Greece, Greece sequestrated the property of the Albanian state and Albanian citizens, including Albanian citizens of Greek descent. Fewer than 200 pieces of real estate.

This sequestration is an assimilation putting foreign property under the supervision of the state, under the guarantee of the state, for as long as the state of war is in effect. Under normal conditions, there would have been a peace treaty that returned the property being sequestrated. But the Cold War did not allow this.

There were friendship agreements between Greece and Albania. Greek governments – the people heckling us today – consented to Albania’s unconditional accession to NATO. And there was a Cabinet decision under Andreas Papandreou in the 1980s to the effect that the war is not ongoing.

Unfortunately, through a number of actions on its part, Greece insisted, in the late 1990s, that the state of war is still in place. This government wants to do away with it. We have to end this.

I want to make a clarification about this state of war, because it is ridiculous for us to be in a state of war with Albania, given the relations we have with this country, given that we are both in NATO, and so on. But I want to clarify the following: The real estate sequestrated is Albanian-owned property that came under the supervision of the Greek state due to the war; before the war started; on the day war was declared.

This is completely different from so-called ‘Cham’ property. The ‘Cham’ property was seized by the Greek state at the end of World War II, and there are court rulings – legality, in other words – in this regard. The return of sequestrated property bears absolutely no relation to the court rulings on seizure of ‘Cham’ property from people who collaborated with the invaders, and this was the case throughout Europe in cases of people who collaborated with the invading force.

JOURNALIST: And in fact – correct me if I’m wrong – there are court rulings on a European level regarding the latter cases.

N. KOTZIAS: There are many, many court rulings, and they don’t come under the Court of Human Rights, because they are decisions from the end of the 1940s – and not from the mid-1950s – where Greek legislation is in force.

JOURNALIST: Let’s go to the issue of the effect of the islands – not the influence, as a confused opposition politician put it recently – but on the issue ...

N. KOTZIAS: When you have no knowledge of a subject and you get other people to write what you’re going to say, you get confused.

JOURNALIST: Right. Have we won Greece’s having 100% effect for the islands?

N. KOTZIAS: There is no winning or losing. We are in negotiations. I won’t tell you right now what we have done. But what I can tell you is that you have nothing to worry about.

JOURNALIST: Fine, we won’t worry. Beyond that, for the extension of territorial waters in the Aegean, from what I understand, an agreement has been reached . In what way could ...

N. KOTZIAS: There is no need for an agreement. Rights over territorial waters are autonomous rights of the Greek state, which of its own accord, whenever it wants, extends them wherever it wants, based on international law, which says territorial waters can be extended to up to 12 nautical miles. It doesn’t say, “12 miles” – this is important. It says, “up to 12 miles”. Today in Greek territory we are up to 6 nautical miles. What I want to say is, there is a big difference between the EEZ and territorial waters. The EEZ gives us rights. Territorial waters is sovereignty; Greece’s territory, its maritime territory, is being extended.

JOURNALIST: Right. Now we’re going to change the subject again and go to issues concerning Turkey and the Cyprus problem. Have the negotiations on the Cyprus problem in Geneva and Crans Montana left a legacy? In other words, what results did these negotiations have for the Cyprus problem and Greek diplomacy?

N. KOTZIAS: As you know, Greek diplomacy did not participate in any agreement on the internal constitution of Cyprus following the settlement of the Cyprus problem, because we believe that these are issues of internal policy and concern only the Cypriots, particularly given that we are arguing that there can be no demands of a colonial nature or demands that someone act as if Cyprus were a protectorate. This is why, in Geneva and Crans Montana, we ruled out and consciously fought against there being rights of intervention in Cyprus’s domestic affairs, which are Cypriot affairs.

What the three guarantor powers (the United Kingdom, Turkey and Greece), based on the Treaties of Zurich and London, have the right to discuss are two small treaties of great importance; One is the Treaty of Guarantee, and the other is the Treaty of Alliance.

Turkey invoked the former to carry out its illegal invasion of Cyprus and maintain its occupation. It invokes the latter to keep its forces in Cyprus. Both agreements must be revoked, but even before they are revoked, all of the illegal Turkish forces added to the 650 military personnel provided for in the Treaty of Alliance must be withdrawn.

What we did for the first time, after 40 years, was to put the issue of guarantees and the illegal Turkish occupying forces back on the table and to have it accepted – even by the United Kingdom, in its own way, and by the UN – that we need to do away with these two treaties.

Guterres, in my opinion a wise UN Secretary-General, stated, including during the negotiations in Crans Montana, that the Treaties of Guarantee and Alliance – the so-called ‘alliance’, that is – are outdated and that no one can demand they be implemented or pursue their being maintained.

That is our major achievement. The real and essential problem of the Cyprus issue, from the perspective of the international players, of which Greece is one, is this issue that had nearly disappeared. The international community and the international players nearly forgot that the Cyprus problem is, first and foremost, a problem of occupation. This issue was re-tabled and cannot be taken off the table again.

It is characteristic that the continuation of the negotiations – which we argue should begin whenever all sides agree – will have the abolition of the Treaties of Guarantee and so-called ‘Alliance’ on the table.

JOURNALIST: When do you see a new round of negotiations being launched?

N. KOTZIAS: First of all, the interested parties have to accept the new mediator appointed by the UN Secretary-General. For the time being, the Turks have not responded in the affirmative, but they haven’t formed a government yet. I assume they will first form a new government, the new Cabinet will be formed, they will exchange opinions, and then they will respond to the UN Secretary-General regarding his appointment of this representative.

JOURNALIST: Is there room for any initiatives aimed at resolving Greek-Turkish disputes on a different basis from the one we have had to date for negotiating and discussing matters?

N. KOTZIAS: Look, first of all let me say that, with regard to the Cyprus problem, we also thought it correct that, before we went to Geneva and Crans Montana, we should have an agreement with Turkey on the system of guarantees and the two treaties I have mentioned.

In a discussion our Prime Minister had with Erdogan in Beijing, in a discussion we had, Erdogan agreed that we need to discuss these things. But subsequently this agreement was not implemented, and in the end, by the fault of Mr. Eide, we went to Crans Montana without having carried out substantial preparations on this major problem of the Cyprus issue.

Now, before the elections in Turkey, we had a first round of consultations with the Turks on an approach that says we definitely need to have these discussions before we go to a new conference. I hope the new Turkish government – which, in terms of personnel, will be about the same as the old one I assume, though I don’t know – holds to this initial agreement of ours, following Crans Montana I mean.

JOURNALIST: With regard to Turkey itself – the renewal of Erdogan’s term and powers, as well as his collaboration with a portion of the extreme right in in his country – do you think Turkey will take a harder stance against Greece?

N. KOTZIAS: We'll see. We’ll see whether – thanks to the fact that Turkey’s government should be less fearful of coups, opponents, etc. – Turkey shows greater pragmatism and realism or whether it perpetuates a hard line that will make it difficult to find solutions and paths to real understanding.

JOURNALIST: Let’s look a little at the initiatives Greece has undertaken on a regional level. Initiatives that concern the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans. There are now regular meetings between the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel. Following the institutionalization of this regular meeting, will we see similar collaboration with other countries; Palestine, for example?

N. KOTZIAS: We have six eastern-looking trilateral cooperation schemes. These are with Egypt and Israel – the two most developed schemes. We have trilateral cooperation with Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan. The newest one is with Armenia, which was delayed due to political developments. As a result, what you see happening with Israel and Egypt will also happen with the other countries. In other words, there will be cooperation on all levels and in all the sectors where we can cooperate.

We decided with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Palestine, at the meeting we had in Rhodes, to hold a meeting, in the autumn, of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and five other Ministers from each side so we can look at how to develop the cooperation between the two countries. And we have also seen the trilateral cooperation between Cyprus, Palestine and Greece.

JOURNALIST: Right. That is a very interesting initiative. Beyond that, is there any thought of a quadrilateral meeting between Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt?

N. KOTZIAS: I don’t think Egypt would want to participate in such a platform at this time. I think it is very happy with the Greece-Cyprus-Egypt platform, which also ensures good access on European developments.

JOURNALIST: And the Greece-Cyprus platform also functions as a bridge for wider cooperation in the region.

N. KOTZIAS: That’s right.

JOURNALIST: A final question: Where do Greek-American relations stand? We now have the Trump presidency halfway through its second year ...

N. KOTZIAS: Look, President Trump didn’t focus on the region in the first year. This made things much easier for us, because there were no outside interventions on issues ranging from the Cyprus problem to the resolution of the Skopje issue.

But I think that, in general, the Trump administration is more favourably disposed towards Greece than previous administrations. Regardless of whether or not one likes Trump, and regardless of what his foreign policy is, when it comes to Greece’s position in the region and when it comes to Greek-Turkish issues, I would say that it is a better relationship than I have seen previously.

JOURNALIST: Right. Thank you very much, Mr. Kotzias, for this very interesting conversation; a detailed discussion, I would say. Because you answered our questions on a number of issues, and we needed those answers. Thank you very much for talking to us.N. KOTZIAS: Thank you and have a good day.

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