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Statements of FM S. Lambrinidis and UK Foreign Secretary W. Hague following their meeting

Monday, 01 August 2011

Statements of FM S. Lambrinidis and  UK Foreign Secretary W. Hague following their meeting W. HAGUE: It’s been a great pleasure to welcome my new Greek colleague, the Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis to London and I am enjoying the experience of our meeting. Of course we had many pressing issues to discuss - particularly the current difficulties in the eurozone - and we paid tribute to the efforts of the Greek government and the sacrifices of the people of Greece in a difficult economic situation. It is in the interest of the United Kingdom, for there to be a stable and healthy eurozone and so we welcomed the agreement that was reached on the 21st of July. We’ve discussed broader economic issues, including the importance of boosting trade, inside Europe and beyond Europe, to help revive the European economies in the future.

And of course, we have discussed the wide range of current diplomatic issues, particularly the Middle East peace process, on which we are working together with our European colleagues; the situation in Libya on which we have a common resolve, the many issues of the Western Balkans - and the importance of maintaining a European perspective in the western Balkan countries - and the current crisis in Syria. We are appalled by the actions of the Assad regime in the last couple of days. I, on behalf of the British government, call again for the intensification of the international pressure on the Syrian government to respond to legitimate grievances, to release the political prisoners and to stop the terrible violence against their own people. So we have discussed all of these and other issues today, and it’s been great to have Stavros here and to be able to say confidently that we will work well together in the future.

S. LAMBRINIDIS: It’s been a great pleasure to come to London and meet with William Hague. I am grateful for his hospitality and the excellent discussions we had. In your remarks, you touched upon the wide range of issues we’ve discussed. Today, in Greece, we are going through a very difficult - but at the same time I would argue - a very hopeful process of changing the country in a way that will bring hope, not just to the Greek people but also to the rest of the EU. Indeed we are all tied together with a knot - together we are members of the eurozone. And I was very pleased to be able to see and detect how alike we think, in the importance that we both base in supporting the eurozone and the efforts of the Greek state. With regard to Syria, we did both discuss the appalling violence taking place. It is extremely important for the regime to be able to respect the aspirations of the people of Syria for a different country, a democratic country and to move fast and effectively in that direction. The violence is obviously not the solution and it is deeply-deeply troubling to us. The Balkans is a region that needs to be integrated with the EU and we discussed about this quite extensively. We also discussed the European prospects and perspectives of Turkey. We both agreed that we want Turkey in the EU, as a full member, provided, of course, that Turkey makes all the changes it has to make in this regard.

And what I wish to say - ending these brief remarks - is the following: I feel particular pleasure to be in London because I think that we share, among other things William, something that is coming up for you, which is the Olympic Games, in which Games I wish you every success. We had to go through this wonderful experience in 2004. No one was expecting that this was ever going to be organised, because it is such a huge undertaking, as you know from your own country and of course we had these remarkable Olympic Games. Everyone at the time hailed Greece as being the most remarkable and wonderful country in the world. In the same way that today, some people have unfortunately attempted to depict us as a terrible-terrible country and in fact I think that both the over-enthusiasm and the under-enthusiasm are mistakes. I think that both you and us are proving that this remarkable world event that brings together every religion, every country, every economic development level in one stadium for 16 days to compete, but to do so in peace, is a remarkable opportunity and a remarkable, if you like, message that we can send.

We would be more than happy to work with Britain for these Games and especially for promoting the Olympic Truce initiative, for which you brought a resolution to the UN, two weeks ago. It is something that is very close to our hearts and if we can together, Greece and the UK, use the Olympics to promote a message of peace and solidarity in the world, that would be fantastic. So, to discuss all this further, it would be a great pleasure to host you back in Greece as well, if your wild world travels allow you any time soon. I’ll be happy to have you there.

W. HAGUE: Thank you very much indeed, that would be great.

ΝΕΤ: About Syria: According to your statement this morning, you can’t exclude any more a Libya intervention...

W. HAGUE: Well we’ve never counted on a military intervention on Syria. This is not a new thing to say, it’s just not something for which it could be any international support. This is a different situation from Libya. In Libya, there was a clear call from the Arab League for intervention and a clear vote from the UN Security Council, authorising all necessary measures to protect civilians. There is no prospect of anything like that in Syria and so it’s clear that we have fewer, legal support in the case of Syria. But we should use those that we have, which include an intensification of international pressure. In our view it would be right to pass a UN Security Council resolution, calling for a response to legitimate grievances, the release of political prisoners and an end to the political violence that we have seen in the city of Hama over the last 36 hours. So, we will continue to work on that with our partners. But that’s a different thing from a military intervention.

SKY: (not heard) Question about the Turkish stance on Cyprus and Europe.

S. LAMBRINIDIS: We discussed this issue, we are concerned by any thing, statement or action that might detract from our shared goal, which is to have negotiations between the two communities that would result in a unified country, a federation as the UN has mandated. We will do everything possible to ensure - to the extent that we can - that that climate can return, so that negotiations can proceed.

Our position on Cyprus is well known and we will continue to urge all concerned to act in the most constructive way possible. Including Turkey.