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Statements of Minister of Foreign Affairs, N. Kotzias, following his meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (Ankara, 24 October 2017)
N. KOTZIAS: I would like to thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs, my friend Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, for the invitation to come to Ankara once again, a city constantly growing more beautiful, as do its people.
I thank him for the invitation that gives us the opportunity to exchange thoughts, because as long as diplomacy comes first, one can set a positive agenda in the relations between two countries.
I also must say that I am pleased that today I will be meeting with President Erdoğan, a great leader of our neighbouring country.
We want Greek-Turkish relations to be as close, friendly and considerate as possible. Our peoples have a great deal to gain from the development of our cooperation and from our keeping third parties from meddling our relationship.
We are living in a difficult world, a world that is changing fast, a world in which many people feel insecure. That is, they feel they live in instability, and often they do not have in mind a perspective on what the future will hold.
In this fast-changing world, it is important for the relations between Greece and Turkey – two important countries with great histories and even greater future – to develop steadily.
Our countries are located in a region rife with crises: to our north, in Ukraine; to our south-west, in Libya; to our south-east, in Syria and Iraq. We are two countries that want peace in the region, that want stability, and this is why we need to work together and exchange opinions and ideas on the subject.
It is of great importance that we form an anchor of stability in a world that is changing and is unstable, and that this firm friendship is a sincere one. We have differences and disagreements, but we also have a positive agenda before us so that we can move forward.
We support, passionately I would say – because we have experienced similar challenges –democracy and the democratic institutions in Turkey, and from the very outset we took a stand against the coup, as we do with any kind of coup.
We are also a country that, with great sincerity, conviction and consistency, supports Turkey’s European path, Turkey’s path to the European Union.
We believe deeply that our country will gain more than any other country in the European Union from a Turkey that is a member of this Union. We believe it, we want it, and we don’t like it when we witness doublespeak, double standards and hypocrisy. These have no place in international politics or inter-state relations.
It is of great importance, during this period of instability, that we maintain open the channels of communication between the two states. The meetings between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs are very important from this perspective, because the Ministries of Foreign Affairs also coordinate the cooperation and contacts among other ministries.
Today we discussed the need for us to continue our cooperation on the migration issue and to organize a meeting of the Culture Ministers. But I think two things are the most important: in February we will hold the fifth G2G meeting, the High-Level Cooperation Council, in an historic city, Thessaloniki, where many peoples have left their mark. And I will also tell you now, though perhaps it might be somewhat inelegant of me: today I will be conveying an official invitation to President Erdoğan, who is very welcome. The President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, awaits him with great pleasure and friendship.
In general, Mevlüt and I are developing a positive agenda and contribute to the cooperation in the tourism sector. We are fortunate to be representatives of two states with beautiful coastlines and regions. We are moving ahead on economic cooperation and on the joint transport projects, on cooperation in the field of education and training, particularly at the level of higher education.
We also believe that we should continue our meetings on all the levels of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, and especially the very successful meetings of our Secretaries General, the equivalent of Political Directors - because there is no precise correspondence between the two positions.
We asked our Secretaries General to contribute to the preparations for the High-Level Cooperation Council and coordinate the various Directorates, so that we can exchange thoughts on major problems affecting or vexing the two states and that we always talk, as we do, with great understanding for one another.
We discussed on issues such as the betterment of living conditions for the Muslim minority and its education and for the Greek presence from Imbros to Istanbul, so as to resolve certain problems of legal or bureaucratic nature that have existed for many years now. I was very pleased that my colleague Mevlüt and I agreed to seek and promote solutions on issues that do not need to be outstanding anymore.
I would like to thank Mevlüt once again for his hospitality; this wonderful hospitality of the Turkish soul. And I would like to promise him that I will reciprocate this hospitality.
The last time he visited, it was on the beautiful island of Crete. Now we agreed to go to an equally beautiful island, but we will reveal which one in good time. I think that when the Ministries of Foreign Affairs hold their meetings in different places in each country, this brings an element of culture and an image that helps develop tourism on both sides.
Mevlüt, thank you once again for your hospitality, for the creative, productive talks we had, which we will continue with President Erdoğan.
Thank you very much.
JOURNALIST: I have a question regarding the Greek-Turkish fight against terrorism. You, too, referred to it at the start of your speech. During the bilateral talks, there was discussion of the process regarding the extradition of the 8 putschist military men who fled to Greece following the attempted coup of 15 July. Can you brief us on the most recent developments regarding the extradition of these putschist soldiers?
N. KOTZIAS: I don’t like coups. As a youth, I lived through the military coup in Greece, from 1967 to 1974, and I have been a victim of that coup. I remember my military judges.
We have our own experience, and the government in Athens is composed of people who are against coups, and many of these people spent time in prison during the coup I referred to – those who are older, not the younger members of the government.
Consequently, as soon as the coup broke out – I was in Mongolia at the time, at the Asia-Europe Meeting – I obviously returned to Athens immediately, on that same day, and expressed our solidarity with the democratic institutions of Turkey and the need for the democratic defence of these institutions.
And of course, whoever took up arms against democracy, must answer to the justice system of the Republic of Turkey.
Those requesting asylum in Greece are granted or refused asylum by the courts, not the government. Court rulings, in general, might be liked by some or disliked by others, but in every case they are respected.
The Greek courts, as I often said to Mevlüt, have very often struck down draft laws of the Greek government, including one of our strongest bills, which concerned the oligarchs’ control of the mass media, and which was rejected by the courts. That is, under the Rule of Law, the Judiciary thinks in its own way. A lot of rulings don’t appeal to us, others we like. But the justice system is indifferent. The main thing is for us to respect the justice system.
Beyond that, whatever isn’t a matter of justice, and is thus a matter of political will, we understand, standing by the Republic of Turkey.
Moreover, as regards the issue of terrorism, we are a country that doesn’t like terrorist groups or terrorists.
I must say, and Mevlüt remembered this, I wrote my first article at the age of 17, under a alias. It was during the first year of the Greek junta, and the article was against terrorism, and this was during the time of a coup.
So, I believe it is perfectly obvious that, for me personally and for my government, anyone who uses the method of terrorism to create fear in a democracy and its citizens is to be condemned, and there has to be the necessary international cooperation.
Thank you very much for your question, madam.