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Foreign Minister Kotzias’ statements to Greek correspondents following his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (Washington, D.C., 20 April 2015)
Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias made the following statements to Greek correspondents following his meeting at the State Department with his U.S. counterpart, John Kerry:
N. KOTZIAS: We had a very interesting a friendly discussion with the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, and with the whole of the American delegation. We talked, first of all, about the economic situation in Greece, about the ways in which, today and in the longer term, the U.S. can help the country economically, about the need for there to be greater confidence in the Greek economy, so that money, investments can come in and trade can increase.
We also talked about the initiatives that have been taken by the Greek government with regard to Greek-Turkish relations, our relations with FYROM, as well as developments in the region and in the Cyprus issue. We talked about the conditions that exist in our region and the initiatives that can be undertaken.
Finally, we spoke about the well-known draft law, and I explained the Greek government’s stance on the bill. It is a stance that is determined by the fact that, as I explained to the Secretary of State, there are eleven European Court of Human Rights rulings against Greece with regard to prison conditions. Moreover, I explained – as I stated going into the meeting – that none of these convicts that fall within the articles of the new law will be set free, but each will be incarcerated under other conditions; that is, kept under house arrest and under the conditions provided for by the law and the amendments made on Saturday.
JOURNALIST: What was Mr. Kerry’s response?
N. KOTZIAS: He didn’t respond, if I remember well. I imagine he will wait to see the developments regarding the specific law.
JOURNALIST: How would you characterize the interview of the U.S. Ambassador in Athens, in which he said that this act of the Greek government is an unfriendly act, a hostile act?
N. KOTZIAS: I think that a close reading of the law would produce a different response.
JOURNALIST: Can you tell us anything on the Cyprus issue?
N. KOTZIAS: I think that all of our Western partners are interested in a solution on the Cyprus issue. I, personally, as I always explain and as I have also explained publicly, think that, for there to be a solution on the Cyprus issue, it has to be a good solution that is accepted by the Cypriot people. It has to be a solution that, if it wants to be substantial, shouldn’t leave any more rights for the so-called guarantor powers.
JOURNALIST: Was that discussed?
N. KOTZIAS: Not during the talks. With Ms. Nuland, coming out, we discussed it one on one.
JOURNALIST: With regard to Russia?
N. KOTZIAS: There was a discussion regarding Russia. They explained the U.S. stance on Russia and on the Ukraine problem. We explained the good and traditional relations we have with Russia, the aid we are providing at this time in Ukraine. We were also asked about Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ recent trip to Moscow, and we explained to them that it is an economically advantageous agreement with economic prospects for the country. Mr. Kerry was kind enough to tell me that, in a few days, the U.S. side will also be sending proposals that will bolster the development of the country’s economy.
JOURNALIST: You said that Mr. Kerry did not respond to the stance you set out. But I imagine he did take a stance on this issue. Can you tell us what he said?
N. KOTZIAS: He posed this issue. That it is a matter of fundamental importance for American foreign policy and generally for the image Greece will have in the American institutions. The importance the American government attaches to terrorism issues is well known. We, the Greek delegation, underscored that our understanding for their concerns is well known, but those concerns do not correspond to the reality and the substance of the law.
We explained the nature of the law; that is, that it is a law that provides for procedures, a medical team that will investigate the condition of the incarcerated, there is a judicial committee, which will deem whether or not this can happen, there is a bracelet that has a specific technology, and I in fact told him that if they have better know-how we could look at that. We have no objections on this.
But we also underscored that there are always the humanitarian issues and not just one person, not just the specific person the discussion concerns, but all of those whom the law concerns. We should respond with humanitarian sensitivity. Besides, this has been imposed on us by the European courts, especially the Court of Human Rights.
JOURNALIST: Did you discuss a visit from the Prime Minister?
N. KOTZIAS: We didn’t discuss it. I invited the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. Kerry, to visit Greece.
JOURNALIST: On the economic issues, do you believe that the U.S. will intervene again with new actions to help us?
N. KOTZIAS: I think that the United State of America is interested in the stability of Greece and the surrounding region, and it is with that criterion that we are talking to everyone.