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Statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, following his meeting with his Dutch counterpart, Stef Blok (Athens, 28 November 2019)
N. DENDIAS: Good morning. It is a great pleasure to welcome the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Stef Blok, to Athens today.
As you know, Greece and the Netherlands have close relations, which was confirmed by the recent visit of Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Our bilateral relations are developing positively on the political and economic levels, but of course, as always, there is room for improvement. Greece’s economic recovery and the new institutional framework the Hellenic Parliament has passed have rendered Greece a major investment destination.
So, we can achieve much more by capitalising on our comparative advantages and on Dutch good practices in the sector of economic diplomacy, on which we will continue to work together. At this point, allow me to make special mention of the Dutch initiative, the “Orange Grove” platform, which benefits Greek start-ups in particular. And I also warmly thank Mr. Blok for providing know-how on economic diplomacy, which is now fully based at our Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and on which we are following the Dutch example of good practices.
Mr. Blok and I today discussed the European perspective of the Western Balkans. I had the opportunity to brief him on my trip to North Macedonia and my extraordinary visit to Albania, due to the disastrous earthquake.
These are two countries waiting on the threshold of our common family, the European Union. Their European perspective, like the European perspective of the other countries in the region, must be encouraged. It is the only way to consolidate the security, stability and prosperity of our neighbourhood.
I listened closely to my colleague’s views, exploring ways to shape the conditions within the European Union so that these two countries can move ahead to the next step, on the strict condition, of course, that they comply with the criteria regarding their progress with reforms. It is a lively debate that we will continue.
We also talked about the developments in the Cyprus issue and in Greek-Turkish relations. The trilateral meeting in Berlin, which confirmed the commitment to a solution based on the resolutions of the UN Security Council, was certainly a positive step. We look forward to the continuation of the UN Secretary-General’s efforts.
Of course, Turkey’s role is always crucial. I am referring to the illegal actions in the maritime zones of the Republic of Cyprus – actions that the European Union has condemned – and to Turkey’s broader stance on the efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue. I also highlighted Turkey’s violations of international legality in the Aegean. Moreover, I underscored to my colleague Turkey’s exploitation of the migration issue – in other words, its use of a humanitarian and pan-European challenge – to serve its own ends.
Greece and the Netherlands recognise the need to support Turkey so that it can meet the great challenge of the migration crisis, but we want to see similar responsibility on the part of Turkey in implementing the agreements and in its conduct towards refugees and migrants.
Today I had the opportunity to convey to my colleague what has been stressed by Mr. Mitsotakis to all of our interlocutors: just as Greece is exhausting its every capability to protect the European Union’s borders, our partners – allow me to underscore this, all of our partners – need to share this burden and meet their obligations. This is why Greece supports the revision of the common European asylum system in the direction of solidarity and fair burden-sharing.
Concluding, I would like to express my warm thanks to Mr. Blok for visiting Athens today and for the constructive talks and his stance.
Thank you very much.
MFA SPOKESPERSON: We will take a limited number of questions. Please state the name of the media outlet you represent and your name.
JOURNALIST: I’m from Greek Radio, ERT. My name is Katerina Fryssa. The question is for both Ministers. Whether you have agreed to cooperate more closely on the refugee/migration issue.
N. DENDIAS: Thank you for the question. As you can understand, and I think this was obvious from Mr. Blok’s statement, it was an important part of our talks. We talked, first of all, about how we can improve our reception system – not just the Greek system, but the European system. We talked about what we can do to achieve fairer burden-sharing – and beyond that, how we can directly get the Turkish side to meet its responsibilities.
Acknowledging, of course, that Turkey is carrying a burden, with which the European Union has assisted in the past and is willing to continue to assist, but at the same time making it clear to Turkey that it cannot violate the agreements or use the migration issue as leverage. In other words, it cannot use the flows of migrants to exert pressure on the European Union or Greece.
I think this is the view of Greece, Holland and the European Union. Of course, with regard to Holland, the Minister himself will express his views.
JOURNALIST: Giorgos Vlavianos, from STAR. A question for Mr. Dendias. Minister, I would like to ask if you are concerned about the Turkish letter to the UN. How we intend to respond and whether our sending a Greek ambassador to Tripoli is being moved forward due to the contents of this letter. Thank you.
N. DENDIAS: First of all, the Turkish letter to the United Nations didn’t say anything that was new to us. These are claims Turkey has also made in the past. Of course, if you ask me whether I was pleased by the letter, the answer is no, I was not at all pleased. We believe Turkey made a mistake.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already issued a relevant statement. I think that, in the clearest and sternest language, it completely rejected the Turkish claims, which are totally groundless. If one can use the term “groundless” in reference to something that concerns the sea. But in any event, it is completely unacceptable. Greece will respond to these claims in the appropriate manner, in a detailed response that we will send to the United Nations, to all of the states of the General Assembly and to all the members of the Security Council.
We believe, and I repeat, that Turkey needs to realise that it is in its own interest to have good neighbourly relations with Greece and to encourage the settlement of the Cyprus problem. Anything else it does is, I think, damaging to its own interests and the interests of Turkish society.
With regard to the Libyan issues, I assume that behind this is the question that has to do with what I think was an ill-advised, not to say completely irrational, attempt to start a discussion – we assume, we don’t know for sure, even though the Libyan Foreign Minister, when I met with him in New York, did not deny there were Turkish proposals in this direction – on delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone between Turkey and Libya. I must say that an attempt such as this betrays an ignorance of geography, because it ignores something that I think everyone has observed: that between the two countries there is the large geographical mass of Crete.
So I think an effort such as this, borders on the ridiculous, and I would like to say that Greece is prepared to send an Ambassador to Libya when the conditions allow for his or her residence there.
MFA SPOKESPERSON: Thank you very much.