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Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ interview in the New York daily ‘National Herald’ (Ethnikos Kirikas) (17 July 2019)
What is the purpose of your visit to the U.S.?
I am visiting the U.S. to participate in the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom and to meet with my counterpart, Mike Pompeo, and National Security Advisor, Mr. Bolton, as well as with prominent members of Congress, such as Senator Bob Menendez. I am certain that, through these extremely productive meetings, we will strengthen the foundations of the new dynamic that has developed in Greek-U.S. relations, especially since the launching of the bilateral Strategic Dialogue. Beyond that, I will have the opportunity to talk to my counterpart about the positive role Greece plays in its immediate environs, our efforts to enhance regional stability and cooperation with the countries of the wider region. In this context, I will also be referring to the issue of Turkey’s provocative actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, which constitute flagrant violations of international law and have been strongly condemned by the international community. I would also like to stress the Greek government’s appreciation for the U.S. government’s relevant statements and clear posistion on this issue.
Right now, Greece has very good relations with the U.S. Are there sectors you will emphasize in order to maximize the benefits from these relations?
The warm relations between Greece and the U.S. go back a long way and are founded not just on a given coincidence of our national interests or the fact that we are NATO allies, but also on common principles and values and the strong bonds linking the two countries and our peoples. A tangible example of the progress we have made is the Strategic Dialogue, in the context of which the two sides have committed to stepping up our cooperation in a number of sectors, such as defence and security, law enforcement and counterterrorism, trade and investment, energy and people to people ties. I am certain that I will have productive meetings and a very useful exchange of views with my American interlocutors, so that we can deepen and expand cooperation on the issues I mentioned.
Is there anti-American sentiment in Greek society today?
There is no anti-Americanism in Greece today. I think any anti-Americanism that existed in previous decades is completely gone. Today, the relations between the two countries and our two peoples are very close and are founded on the fact that we share the same principles and values, we have common goals, shared interests, and we jointly defend the western, democratic way of life. Greece is the birthplace of Democracy, and the U.S. is the most powerful Democracy today, and this brings us even closer together.
There has been tension lately in Greek-Turkish relations, especially following the drilling Turkey claims it is carrying out in the Cypriot EEZ. What will be the Greek government’s first move in dealing with Turkey’s provocations? Are you satisfied with the stance taken by the European partners on the issue of Ankara’s latest provocations?
Greece immediately condemned Turkey’s illegal activities in Cyprus’s territorial waters and in the Cypriot EEZ. We firmly support all efforts by the Republic of Cyprus to highlight this issue in international fora. Moreover, this is the first time that the European Union – following coordinated actions on the part of Cypriot and Greek diplomacy – has proceeded to take specific measures against Turkey. This is an extremely important development. I hope Turkey comes to its senses. We don’t wish for a Turkey that is distanced from the EU. But it is obvious that our relations with Turkey should be based on international law, the Law of the Sea and good neighbourly relations.
Is the Greek government’s recognition of Juan Guaidó as the transitional president of Venezuela practical or symbolic in nature?
Greece proceeded to recognise the democratically elected President of the Venezuelan National Assembly as president ad interim, in line with the vast majority of EU member states. The goal is to create conditions in Venezuela for holding free and fair elections, so that the political impasse there can be resolved democratically, for the benefit of the Venezuelan people.
What is your message to Greek Americans and the diaspora in general?
Greece’s ties with the diaspora remain strong and active. This doesn't mean we shouldn’t strengthen them further. And this is precisely the goal of the new government and the competent Deputy Foreign Minister, Antonis Diamataris, who is very familiar with the issues of Greeks abroad, especially in the U.S. The legislative provision for enabling Greeks abroad to participate in elections is a longstanding demand of the Greek diaspora, and our government is committed to achieving this. I also want to thank them for their support during these difficult years of the fiscal crisis, when they showed – each to their own ability – that they remain supportive of the homeland, no matter how far away they are. To the new members of the diaspora, those who have left during the crisis, I would like to underscore that the new Greek government will do everything in its power to create the right conditions for their return to Greece. The country needs them, so that together we can build a better future for all of us.