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Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias' interview with the German daily Die Welt

Donnerstag, 23 März 2017

JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, the refugee crisis hit Greece particularly hard. What do you expect from Europe?

N. KOTZIAS: That at long last we will discuss the causes of the refugee flows, and not just the consequences. The causes are the wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and other countries. As an old Leftist, I find it hard to understand why there isn't an anti-war movement in Europe, as there was during the Vietnam war.

JOURNALIST: What do you expect specifically in terms of support for your country?

N. KOTZIAS: The Europeans have already done a lot. But we urgently need more support from the countries of the EU in dealing with the refugee crisis. Most European countries take very few refugees from us, and the support provided for processing the applications for asylum is only a fraction of what they promised. Greece showed great humanitarianism in receiving the refugees. But a new wave of refugees this summer would put us under great pressure. Greece has reached the outer limits of its capabilities.

JOURNALIST: Does Greece feel that it has been left to its fate?

N. KOTZIAS: One of the EU's biggest problems is that it has no crisis management strategy. There are countries that are trying and showing solidarity, like Germany. And there are countries pursuing a Europe à la carte, and they only want to reap the advantages. But the joint decisions have to be implemented jointly. Otherwise, Europe cannot function.

JOURNALIST: The EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Mr. Avramopoulos, is considering the possibility of suing the objectors at the EU Court.

N. KOTZIAS: We should show that the European model is better than the policy on refugees in America or in Asia. Have we done that? No. And why not? Because we didn't think of the long-term problems. This is a major European weakness.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe that, by September of this year, 160,000 refugees will have been relocated to all the countries of the EU?

N. KOTZIAS: I am optimistic by nature. But that is a very optimistic scenario.

JOURNALIST: Now the EU wants to send refugees who initially reached your country back to Greece from other member states. Is this feasible?

N. KOTZIAS: I don't think Greece has the capability or the economic resources to receive refugees sent back from the northern countries of the EU. There are some EU countries that believe they can use southern Italy and Greece as closed boxes in which they can store the refugees. But that is not European thinking.

JOURNALIST: You are personally involved in the negotiations on the Cyprus issue. The talks are stagnant again. Where does the problem lie?

N. KOTZIAS: The main problem, naturally, is the occupation of the northern portion of Cyprus by the Turkish army. Ankara violated the London and Zurich Agreements, which provide for the guarantor powers' -- Greece, Great Britain and Turkey -- having to agree on joint actions following joint talks. Turkey acted unilaterally and occupied the northern portion of the island. And naturally it didn't stay for just a few days -- 43 years have gone by since then.

JOURNALIST: What do you expect from Turkey?

N. KOTZIAS: Turkey has to understand that Cyprus is not a state that is just now being created, as was the case then, in the years 1959-1960. Cyprus is a member of the United Nations and the European Union. No third state can have the right to intervene there. Turkey has to respect international law and withdraw its troops. The resolution of the Cyprus problem lies in ensuring the greatest possible security and the rights of the three small minorities and the Turkish Cypriot community, but also in giving the Greek Cypriot community the greatest possible security and rights. Security for the Greek Cypriots means the withdrawal of the Turkish army and the end of any form of guarantor rights, which allow Turkey to intervene in Cyprus. The Turkish army must leave. The system of guarantor powers must be eliminated. We want a federal system that will create equal rights.

JOURNALIST: Turkey doesn't want to withdraw its forces completely. What might be a compromise solution?

N. KOTZIAS: The 33,600 Turkish soldiers currently stationed in the northern portion of Cyprus cannot possible withdraw immediately -- all of them in one day. This could happen gradually. A model for this could be the withdrawal of the Soviet army from East Germany, which took a total of four years.

JOURNALIST: Is that realistic?

N. KOTZIAS: We will have to look at that. I can imagine Ankara demanding, in the end, that a special unit of Turkish soldiers remain. But that can't happen, naturally. For the Cyprus problem to be resolved, there has to be a sunset clause, which will stipulate that, within a reasonable amount of time, on a specific day, the last Turkish soldier will have to have left the northern portion of the island.

JOURNALIST: What is Turkish President Erdogan's role in the negotiations?

N. KOTZIAS: His role is very important.

JOURNALIST: This might be a problem, particularly given that Erdogan is under pressure from the Turkish nationalists, whose support he definitely needs for the constitutional reform.

N. KOTZIAS: President Erdogan is a great statesman. I want to underscore this expressly. He has contributed substantially to shaping Turkey and he took the Turkish economy upward. Unfortunately, he is not behaving that way right now.

JOURNALIST: But, unfortunately, that is only one side of the coin.

N. KOTZIAS: I hope that the standards of conduct that exist following the July coup attempt will change after the referendum on the constitutional reform, in mid-April. From the outset, we clearly condemned the coup attempt. But we also said that what is important for us is the defence of democratic values, and not the interests of individual persons.

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