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Joint statements of Foreign Minister Kotzias and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, following their meeting (Athens, 28 May 2015)
N. KOTZIAS: Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to bid a hearty welcome to my colleague and counterpart from the Islamic Republic of Iran, Minister Mohammad Zarif.
To us, Iran is a country with which we are associated and connected by more than 2,000 years of history. This is a country of very rich cultural heritage and a very glorious historic past. It is a friendly country, with which we are related by bonds that go back several centuries, more than 1,000 years ago actually. At the same time, the way we see it at least, this is a key country, key to the safety and security both for the world and for our region.
I made a point of explaining to my colleague and counterpart, his Excellence, Mr Minister Zarif, that the first time I visited Moscow in my capacity as Foreign Minister of Greece, I met with Mr Lavrov, and on the very next day, he was going to be at Minsk, and I wished a very good deal. Today, Mr Zarif has been honoring us with his presence here and tomorrow he is leaving for Geneva, to take part in the negotiations in the matter of nuclear energy issues concerning Iran. I truly wish and hope that this trip of his to Athens brings him luck for the things to come.
And with Mr Zarif we have already discussed and we will continue our discussion during lunch over issues for furthering of our cooperation in domains besides and beyond the international restrictions imposed, and we will be discussing how to prepare our cooperation on such issues and in such domains as will be of constructive interest once the restrictions are lifted and we hope that this will happen very, very soon.
We have been discussing and we will continue the discussion on the need for cultural and political cooperation and for the upgrading of our cooperation, putting special emphasis on our cooperation on financial issues and energy, both of which topics will be raised with Mr Tsipras, our Prime Minister, and our Minister of Energy, Mr Lafazanis.
As you are all aware, only a few days ago, I signed the agreement for the launching of direct flights between Tehran and Athens. I hope they will be contributing to a furtherance of our trade relations and, above all, tourism.
Moreover, I associated our debate on energy with further utilization of our commercial fleet, which is of utmost importance for transportation of petrol and LNG. I mean to pursue our political consultations on both sides of this line, and we believe both countries support each other on a series of issues that are of mutual concern to us.
We would like to underscore, and we will keep doing so, how important it is for all of us in the region to achieve a definitive solution and agreement in the matter of the Iranian nuclear program. As I explained to the Iranian Minister Greece will be trying to contribute to a better understanding on the part of the European Union of the approaches, of the needs, of the perceptions of Iran, as well as contributing to an enforcement and tightening of these relations, on the basis of international law and the rules governing the functioning of the European Union.
Mister Zarif and I jointly expressed our commitment to the contribution to the cause of peace in the Middle East, and we jointly express and voice our concern on the activity of ICIS and the Jihadists. As you know, Greek foreign policy has been underscoring the need for stabilization of the entire region and of the very well-known triangle of destabilization, which is Ukraine, Libya on the left side and the Middle East on the right side of this triangle. Most and above all, in this last part of this triangle, Iran’s role is meant to be of decisive importance.
I truly believe that the visit by Mister Zarif, a friend of Greece, Minister of Foreign Affairs and a very thoughtful man, an intellectual of very strong rhetorical capacities, as those who have been following him at the UN have come to understand, will be contributing to the opening of a new chapter of relations between the EU and Iran, to the benefit of our peoples and our perspectives.
Dear Mohammad Zarif, welcome to Greece.
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Good afternoon. I would like to convey on behalf of members of my delegation, our sincere appreciation to you and through you to the government and people of Greece, for the warm reception and friendly hospitality extended to us since our arrival. We feel totally at home, among friends, whose friendship goes back to millennia, and who have deep historical roots, which enables us to engage in relations with a much better understanding of our civilization, much better understanding and appreciation of the contribution that each country has played and has made to the world history and to the world civilization.
We have been around for longer than many, and we will continue to work together and to help each other to promote peace and stability, both in our respective regions, as well as in the larger international community.
Our relations with Greece, based on this historical richness and depth, has been a very positive and excellent relation between the two countries, which needs to be further improved. Unfortunately, because of the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran over the past several years, we have seen a steady decline in our relations that I hope that we will rebuild, with the strong political will of the two governments – and I have seen that in Prime Minister Tsipras, but also in our President and government – a serious desire and intention and resolve to expand these relations and to take advantage of the opportunities that we have, the complementarities that the two economies have, some of which you have already mentioned, for us to engage in much better relations between the two countries.
Politically, Iran and Greece have similar views on a number of issues and we can further exchange views and cooperate, particularly in the area of peace and security, counterterrorism and fighting extremism. Extremism, as you pointed out, is a major threat, not only to our region, through the expansion of ISIS in Syria and Iraq and its expansion to the west in Africa and to the east in Afghanistan and central Asia, but also the threat that it poses to countries as far as away as Australia and as close as Europe, as we have seen in the unfortunate incidents of the past many months. So we see a common challenge and a common threat with which we have to work, and against which we have to cooperate. And that is one area where we can use our depth of history, in order to know that the military solution to this issue is not the only solution and it is not the best solution. We need to engage in a much more serious effort to counter it culturally, ideologically, as well as economically and financially and ecologically, in order to be able to deal with that. That’s one area where we have common challenges where we need to work with politically.
Culturally, we enjoy both a rich heritage and a rich culture, which our two citizens can fully share. I am very happy that we are now going to have a direct flight or several direct flights between Athens and Tehran. That will provide a better opportunity for our general public to get to know each other better, but also for the private sector to be able to interact with each other in a much more fruitful, way that is very conducive to enhancing our bilateral relations.
In the economic field, we are going to entertain various opportunities in areas of mutual interest, be it in LNG, in science and technology, in tourism, in agriculture, in other fields of common interest between the two countries, and I am very happy that we have been hosting the delegations from Greece and we will be hosting soon further delegations coming from Greece, in order to look into possibilities of further cooperation.
So, again, I am very happy to be here. We discussed quite a bit and we have much more to discuss over the next few hours, while I have the pleasure of being your guest. I am looking forward to my continued discussions on all these issues.
I appreciate your good wishes for our negotiations with P5+1, and we are doing our best in order to make sure that, with dignity and respect, we can reach a solution, as I wish the Greek government and the Greek people success in their difficult negotiations, so that they too with dignity and respect could resolve their problems, as we try to do the same.
JOURNALIST: Hello, Mr Zarif, hello, Mr Kotzias. I am Iranian journalist; I have a question for your Excellency, Mr Kotzias.
Mister Minister, according to the journey of the first Minister of Greece to Moscow and the discussion about the energy cooperation between Greece and Russia, what is your opinion about energy cooperation between Iran and Greece?
N. KOTZIAS: I believe that a development of relations between Iran and Greece as far as energy is concerned is indeed possible and even desirable.
Iran is a country possessed of gas and especially petrol of very high quality and in very high quantities. As for Greece, we are geopolitically in a position that allows us to be considered as the gateway of the European Union.
Moreover, Greece or the Greek ship owners to be more specific, have a large and very good fleet for the transportation of LNG and petrol. Therefore, a cooperation between the two countries would be very positive, not only in the domain of energy but also in the domain of transportation.
Moreover, as we all know, in the aftermath of the discussion amongst Greece, Turkey, FYROM, Serbia and Hungary, in Budapest, we have decided that we are five states, including Greece, committed to this perspective of Greece becoming a destination country and a transit country for petrol and LNG to come into Europe. This region is in need of new pipelines and through these pipelines there will be transportation of energy material from Iran to Europe.
JOURNALIST:Please tell me how you see the role of Greece as a member of the European Union and a member of the NATO Alliance, a country with which you do admit you have deep historic relations. So, what is your idea of Greece in the light of all that?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, we have always had good understanding with Greece and we have always appreciated the role of Greece within the organizations to which it belongs, as a friend of Iran. That has been longstanding, particularly with the new government in Greece, where we share views on how we must insist on our dignity and respect. I believe they can understand better why Iran cannot accept any solution that is less than respectful and less than dignified, and we hope that Greece can play that role in making everybody appreciate that we can only have agreements in which all sides can claim that they have achieved positive results.
Winning at the expense of others is impossible in today’s world. And I believe not too many people understand this better than our friends in Greece: that you need to either win together or lose together. This is the nature of our international community, and I believe Greece, both within EU and as well as within NATO and as well as elsewhere, with its deep sense of history and culture and civilization, can help our friends in these organizations, and those who don’t act friendly with us. better appreciate these realities that Iran, with millennia of history, cannot be intimidated.
JOURNALIST: Thank you very much. Minister Zarif, I would like to ask you how the talks in Geneva are progressive, whether it is still realistic to hope for a June 30 deadline, and for your government’s response to what France has been saying mainly, that there has to be access to military installations for any deal to be made. Thank you.
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, I believe that if the other side respects what has already been agreed upon in Lausanne, in terms of the parameters for an agreement, and tries to draft, based on mutual respect, a comprehensive agreement with Iran that is sustainable, that can be balanced and that can be considered a dignified, mutually respectful agreement, then we can meet any deadline.
And if people insist on excessive demands, on renegotiations, then it would be difficult to envisage an agreement even without the deadline. I am hopeful that this will in fact reach a final conclusion within a reasonable period of time. I believe in order to do that, people need to be realistic, people need to have their foot in reality and not in illusions, and I tend to refrain from negotiating publically, but I believe the terms of the agreement in Lausanne are rather clear, so I would expect my negotiating partners to refrain from making excessive demands.