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Statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, following his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulides (Nicosia, 7 May 2018)
Nikos, thank you very much. I am always very honoured to be at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, of my dear Cyprus. I am always pleased to meet with my friend Nikos. Tomorrow we have the trilateral meeting with Israel, there is a meeting with President Anastasiades. We thought a lot about how to open up new paths and move ahead.
We didn’t just have a polite, formal discussion today. We never do. We talked so that we can take bold steps. I listened carefully and with great interest to the Cypriot side’s proposal for how we can activate and strengthen our trilateral cooperation schemes in the region, in a creative spirit, with the Republic of Cyprus, and we are open to and in agreement with the basic thinking presented.
We talked about the trilateral cooperation schemes in the Balkans and the many initiatives we are taking in this region, and we exchanged views on how we can better incorporate Cyprus into the other side of the direct geographical connections we have; that is, beyond the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, south-eastern Europe.
We talked about many regional issues. I have said in Athens, and I want to reiterate this, that I am concerned at the legislation being passed by the Assad government, which makes it more difficult for the refugees to return because it essentially disputes property ownership status there – ownership of homes, land and businesses – and the European Union must not accept this.
My friend and counterpart the Minister and I also talked about energy issues. I think that our regions, those of Greece and Cyprus, have been upgraded, including through the great progress Cyprus has made in the energy sector.
We also talked about stability in the region. And I must say that this is one of the most fundamental issues the two of us are looking at in a region rife with instability, wars, with millions of people at an impasse. We are looking at how we, the two stable and deeply democratic countries, can contribute to the region’s stability through European principles and values. How we can contribute, as much as possible, to approaching these problems in the most correct, most humane, most democratic manner.
We also discussed Turkey in this context. It is well known that Greece always dreams of and hopes for a European Turkey, because it will mean a Turkey that doesn’t occupy foreign territory, a Turkey that doesn’t seek to give guarantees and to have rights of intervention in third countries. A Turkey that respects human rights at home, that does not intervene – as in Afrin – in third countries, and thus a European Turkey with whom we will have normal relations and normal borders. If our goal is for Cyprus to become a normal state, our other goal – a more difficult one – is normal relations. We are moving together on this and we are talking about ways to exert more influence over the ‘players’, in the sense of international relations, who are involved in this process.
Once again I would like to thank the Republic of Cyprus for the moments of profound sentiment that allow us to bow when we come to this land. I want to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, which always welcomes us with an open embrace – and the new Minister and friend with an even more open embrace – and makes us feel at home, perhaps more genuinely and substantially than anywhere else in the world.
Thank you very much.
JOURNALIST: I have a question for Mr. Kotzias. Minister, allow me to ask you a question, on the occasion of your presence at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and because, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, you testified in court and we have learned about your statements in response to the questions you were asked. I would like your comment on everything that has happened. We were surprised, as you will understand, to hear the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs say that Greece is being vilified in a manner in which it wasn’t vilified even under the Junta, as you said in court – according to the reports we have heard – and I would like to hear your stance on this case.
N. KOTZIAS: I am here to develop our bilateral relations with the Republic of Cyprus, with a state that is my home, and I won’t respond regarding something that should not have happened. The worst thing I could do would be to bring something that should not have happened into this space, here.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Christodoulides said something in his statements, before you spoke, and because in recent days a discussion has started regarding the stance set out in the Secretary-General’s framework. You were present in Crans-Montana. An attempt is being made to distort the substance of the Secretary-General’s framework, what it provides for. And mainly regarding the guarantees, there is a claim that it doesn’t provide for the abolition of the Guarantees and ‘rights’ of intervention. Rather, there is a reference, in the name of “rights of intervention” based on the Turkish Cypriot side’s interpretation, with no reference to the informal document – you remember it well – on the mechanism for the implementation and monitoring of the solution. You were there. You know how the discussion of that framework evolved. Would you like to respond to these claims?
N. KOTZIAS: I think these claims have been responded to by history and by all the sides. Actually, that evening I was sitting next to the UN Secretary-General. So we exchanged thoughts – let’s say, in a way – and I was the one who commented at length, for forty-five minutes, on the Secretary-General’s proposals, as did President Anastasiades, before the other sides torpedoed the talks. Mr. Guterres tried to sum up the discussion based on the principles of the UN: that third states cannot intervene in UN member states, that these “rights” are a thing of the past, antidemocratic, against international law, and that Turkey’s illegal troops must be withdrawn, that it isn't in line with treaty of Alliance – may God make it an Alliance, of course, but that is what the Treaty is called. That the leaders, not the Ministers of Foreign Affairs – in other words, Mr. Anastasiades and the Prime Ministers of the two states and the President of Turkey – should meet to consider that the Treaty of Guarantees must be abolished. And I think it was crystal clear.
I want to tell you about an incident, beyond but related to your question. When, at some point, my Turkish counterpart said, “But the Treaty of Alliance must be implemented,” I took out a photograph that showed what? The joint military staff among the various states and the Republic of Cyprus that existed based on the Treaty of Alliance. And that there was a rotating chairmanship, and he was asked whether he would accept a Cypriot as the first commander and a Greek as the second. If he wants the Treaty of Alliance, and needless to say he didn’t like the idea, and it appeared that he had never seen or studied these treaties. But the Secretary-General had, and on the responsibility of the Secretary-General and mediator he proposed what I just said.
JOURNALIST: Minister, there are news media in Greece that are writing that Turkey submitted maps to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’; maps that designate its EEZ and the continental shelf, ignoring both Kastelorizo, as an island complex, and whole maritime regions that belong to Greece and Cyprus. To what extent is this the case? And if it is the case, what do you intend to do?
N. KOTZIAS: I know that Turkey has submitted to the UN a response to us, which it carries round wherever it likes. These are erroneous stances, but Turkey is trying to legitimize its illegal claims in any way it can. Because, as I have said, it always tries to make its moves appear legal. But international law cannot be circumvented by such plans.