Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias' interview with Deutche Welle (28.08.2020)
JOURNALIST: Minister, you had a foreign policy success at this
ministerial meeting in Berlin, the EU is willing now to consider
sanctions against Turkey. Can you let us know the details?
N. DENDIAS: Well, I would not consider this a success for us; I would consider this a success for the common European family. The fact is that in the South-Eastern Mediterranean we are facing Turkish aggression, Turkish illegal behaviour. A behaviour which goes against international law and the international law of the sea. So within our family we have agreed that in case Turkey does not come back to its senses, does not come back to a process of dialogue and a process according to which the respect of international law, international law of the sea is paramount, sanctions have to be the order of the day. That is what has been agreed.
JOURNALIST: The situation in the area is unstable. Greek ships, French ships, Turkish ships monitor each other by radar. This is something that is not desirable among NATO partners. There was even American involvement. Do you think that Greece and maybe the European Union should have intervened earlier? Is there something that you missed? Should things have been taken a bit harder earlier in the game?
N. DENDIAS: Well, I have to say it is even worse. They don’t only view each other through radar. As you probably know we had an accident last week in the Aegean and it is thanks to the captains of the two ships and mainly the Greek captain that further escalation has been avoided. But I have to say that the problem is that Turkey does not understand the limits. And the limits are obvious. The limits are the international law, the international law of the sea. And I have to say that if there is a mistake in the part of the European Union, if there is a mistake in the part of the United States, is that they have not spoken to Turkey with a clear enough language. But I think after today’s meeting, this could be put in order.
JOURNALIST: But before the meeting, you know, the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas came with a rather softly-softly approach. We need to withdraw our ships, then we need to talk and we need to have a dialogue with Turkey. This has failed so far. Should we just scrap that? Or what is the goal of the next steps?
N. DENDIAS: Well, Heiko is the Presidency of the European Union and it is understandable that he has to take the softer of the options, hoping for the better of results and nobody disagrees with that. Of course, we will all prefer to resolve our issues and problems through dialogue and that is Greece’s preference as well. Greece has always said that we are ready for dialogue and the last thing we would like is to use the options, the option of the sanctions paper. We don’t want that. We would love to avoid that. But yet again clear lines have to be drawn. And Turkey has to understand. There is no way that the country can exist by not respecting the international law and the international law of the sea. This is problematic not just for the region but for the whole world.
JOURNALIST: How scary is the situation? How scared do you feel? Personally, do you think Erdoğan is willing to listen now, if he gets a stronger message?
N. DENDIAS: Well, it is not me or Greece or anybody that we dictate to President Erdoğan what he has to do for the benefit of Turkey, of Turkish people of the Turkish society. What I would say is that what I would hope to see in the region is a common understanding between countries and nations. And Greece is perfectly willing to do so. It is for President Erdoğan to choose.
JOURNALIST: So, what do you finally think should happen? Would Greece be willing to sit down at a negotiating table somewhere, maybe in Stockholm and talk to Turkey with all parties involved and figure out a solution, figure out an agreement with everyone?
N. DENDIAS: We can do that as well. But we have to have terms of references and what are the terms of references as a discussion? It is clear. International law, international laws of the sea. And also, if I may add, respect of human rights. Because there are issues on Turkey about human rights. But yet again if Turkey is willing to come to an understanding with the European Union, with Greece, with Cyprus, we would be perfectly happy, perfectly happy.
JOURNALIST: Minister Dendias, thank you very much.
N. DENDIAS: Thank you so much.