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Joint statements of Foreign Minister Kotzias and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, following their meeting (Athens, 4 December 2015)

Friday, 04 December 2015

N. KOTZIAS: Good day. I welcome my friend Secretary of State John Kerry, with whom we work closely in the context and the spirit of the traditional bonds of friendship that join the two countries, and I also welcome him and hope we will see him again in the future, because he is a person who loves the sea and sailing, and the Greek islands. We will await him in the future.

Mr. Kerry is a great Secretary of State, distinguished for his rationality, his clear thinking and his realism.

Hepointsupthecontradictionsandcontrasts. John Kerry is the Secretary of State of a country where there is a large Greek community, the role of which as a bridge between Greece and the U.S. is well known.

Weacknowledgetheassistance of the U.S. during the recent negotiations with regard to the economic crisis, and we appreciate the open spirit of the United States of America as concerns the management of the debt – I would say, a constructive approach to resolving this problem.

Greece is an important player in the region. It is at the center of a triangle of instability, with Libya and Syria at the base and Ukraine at the top. And it is a stable country that also radiates stability in the region.

It is a country that knows and understands the region     and can contribute to all kinds of negotiations, mediations and, if need be, to arbitration between opposing sides.

We know that he Syrian crisis, the war in Syria, is creating major problems. Greek foreign policy supports the Vienna process. It supports the political resolution of the Syrian issue, with a democratic constitution and with democratic elections. And it supports this not just in general terms, but also because a large part of the migration crisis is due to what is happening in Syria right now.

The repercussions of the Syrian crisis must be confronted with humanity and in cooperation with our neighbours, in accordance with all of the rules of international relations and international law.

In this framework, as we discussed, our priority is a political solution in Syria and support of countries receiving refugees, like Jordan and Lebanon, and support for the stability of the region and the line of Egypt, Sudan, Somalia.

And of course we believe that there must be a fair distribution of the burden arising from the migration crisis, and that there should be, first of all, for all of this to happen, an effective handling of terrorism and ISIS.

This is why I say, again, that we fervently support the Vienna process. John and I talked about another important problem in the region – a problem sending out the first messages of optimism – the Cyprus problem.

We support all of the efforts of the talks on the Cyprus issue, which are being carried out under the mediating efforts of the UN.

We have stressed in every way that, in the 21st century, there cannot be a member state of the UN and the European Union that is subject to anachronistic systems like that of the guarantees and the presence of foreign troops.

We also discussed the issues of energy an investments, and I would like to say that it is always our wish – and we work to this end – for Greece and the U.S. to work together to the benefit of regional stability.

In closing, my dear John, I give you an invitation to come to the Greek islands of the Aegean. You will be an ambassador to American tourism for Greece, and they listen to you very closely in the U.S.

And, in closing, I cannot but say, dear friend, friend John, welcome to Athens. It’s nice having you here.

J KERRY [UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT]:Thank you very much, thank you. I accept your invitation. The only question is, when? I am not sure my job allows me the luxury of such a wonderful few days, but I guarantee you I’ve been dreaming about the islands for years and I look forward to taking you up on that invitation. Alright? Thank you.

Mr. Kotzias, Nikos, thank you so much. Thanks for the generous welcome here in Athens, the birthplace, obviously, of democracy. And it is particularly pleasing for me to be able to be here to reinforce the enduring alliance between our two countries.

We were talking about Boston, where I come from, we have a very large Greek American population there, as many of you know, and in many parts of America Greeks are continuing to make enormous contributions to the life of our country and they continue to express their deep ties and affection for their native country.

Put very simply, the United States-Greek relationship is really unbreakable. It is a good example of countries they can weather the storms together. There have been good moments and there are moments where there have been difficulties, as with any relationship.

But at its core our relationship is rooted in values and in deep ties of culture and family. And that gives our partnership a very special strength.

With my visit today I want to commend the resilience and the work of the Greek people. As you work your way out of the one of the worst economic crises in your history, Greece has opened its doors to refugees and migrants escaping the fighting in Syria and neighboring countries.

The United States is very proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as partners and as friends.

Everyday our countries stand together to address issues of regional stability, of trade and investment, and the diversification of energy resources, which is, in the end, a major strategic interest that we share. It is a security interest.

We stand together in the counter ISIS coalition. And I am absolutely convinced, based on decisions that President Obama has been making over the course of the last months, together with our allies, France, England just the other day in a vote in the Parliament, Germany in a vote in the Bundenstag, other countries in the region, the Gulf states, all of them have been stepping up in their commitment, which makes me certain that over the course of time we are absolutely going to defeat the Daesh and violent extremists.

We stand together here today and in the days preceding this and in the days ahead as NATO allies in the defense of the Euroatlantic area and wherever security is challenged from Afghanistan to Kosovo.

United States has been also proud to support Greece on its journey to economic recovery. And that has required very tough political choices and difficult sacrifices by the people of Greece.

We welcome the agreement that was reached this summer between the Greek government and European creditors, and the very hard work since then to implement it.

And I had a very good meeting a little while ago with the Prime Minister in which we discussed some of the needs in the road ahead for economic recovery.
Obviously more effort is necessary in the months ahead. But I am absolutely confident that Greece is leaders, will continue to implement the reforms that are necessary in order to restore competitiveness, to improve market confidence and to attract responsible investment.

Also, steps that are going to be necessary to maintain access to credit and to establish the foundation for job growth, for economic development, for a prosperous future. In that effort you can count on America’s continued support.
At the same we all know that in the 21st century countries have to look beyond their borders in order to carve out a strong position in the global market place.

It’s no longer satisfactory to trade within a nation or just within a few nations. It is a global market place and it is a competitive one. That is why the United States is enthusiastic about Greece’s growing role in European energy security. In particular we applaud the Greek government for moving forward on the Trans Adriatic Pipeline and the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector.

These are very important energy projects and they will not only strengthen Greece’s economy, but they will help advance regional stability and prosperity. And these projects will also create, I am confident, new opportunities for United States investment in Greece. And one of the priorities that Prime Minister Tsipras said to me today is he wants to see foreign direct investment which is the key to making up for the absence obviously available domestic funds because of the pressure that Greece has been under.

So, that is the way to do it, do projects like this energy development project and other projects. As the government takes further steps to improve the investment climate here, I guarantee you, we are going to do everything we can to help spread the word to our companies, that Greece is open for business.

And just as Greece takes steps to revitalize its economy this country is also on frontlines, obviously, of the refugee crisis.

Greece is working hard, under difficult circumstances I might add, to process arrivals from Syria and from other countries and to provide a much needed humanitarian assistance. I want to emphasize, this is not solely a Greek crisis. It’s not solely a European crisis, nor even a Middle East crisis, it is a global crisis, for which we must all share responsibility.

To that end we welcome the decision by the European Union to commit 3.1 billion dollars to assist Syrian refuges in Turkey. And we are committed to doing our part as well.

The United States, I am proud to say, is perhaps the largest donor to date to the refugee relocation issue, having put in more than 4.5 billion dollars in humanitarian assistance since the start of the Syrian civil war. And today I am pleased to announce that we will put another 24 million directly in additional assistance with UN High Commissioner for refugees.

And this new funding will support UNHCR’s activities here in Greece and the Balkans and in other immediately impacted parts of Europe, including it will help support the creation of reception facilities for refugees and migrants and the provision of lifesaving aid such as food, water, temporary shelter and health care.

We will also facilitate training visits to the United States by representatives from Asante as well as Almasar, and these are two groups [NGOs] that have been working here to educate migrants, and we will support and build on the remarkable work of Greek organizations like the one that I visited this morning downtown, the Melissa network.

I was just really very touched and moved by the women, and one young girl, who
were working there in order to help migrants and refugee women integrate into Greek society or be able to find the help that they need as they move on to another country and another future.

Even with the best possible strategy though, my friends, the real solution to the refugee crisis for all of Europe is to bring the earliest possible end to the war in Syria.

And that is precisely the work that I and others have been engaged in over these last weeks with the two meetings that we held in Vienna and the work that we are doing now, to build on that, in order to try to rapidly bring the opposition to the table, to have negotiation with the Assad regime for the purposes of the transition to which we now have Russia and Iran at the table together with South Arabia and the Emirates and other Gulf countries, as well as European nations and United States.

And we are committed to try to accelerate this diplomatic initiative, to achieve a ceasefire and to press forward the political transition in Syria.

That is the single best way in which we cannot only resolve the problem of refugees, but frankly do the most to encourage the prosperity and the stability in this region and to be able to bring in a greater security to the citizens of this country and others.

We are going to do everything in our power and to push that over the course of the next several weeks.

The Prime Minister, Mr. Kotzias and I also discussed Greece’s role in the coalition today along with other regional issues on which we cooperate, and one of them, obviously, is Cyprus, where I just visited it, but also the Balkans and the implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement.

In all of the challenges that are faced by Greece, by the United States, by the world right now, I am absolutely convinced that our countries are going to remain close allies and friends.

And it was, after all I mean, you can pick almost any remarkable and well known piece of wisdom through the ages -- they were left us by the great Greek philosophers and by history in this part of the world.

But it was Aesop who first advised us with a very simple piece of advice: United we stand and divided we fall.

And with that wise counsel in mind, let me make you clear that United States stands with Greece and I am confident that Greece and United States stand together with our European friends and other countries in this region in order to resolve the serious security challenges that we face at this point of time.

Ijustsayquickly “Η Αμερική στηρίζει την Ελλάδα”.

JOURNALIST [Washington Post]:Secretary Kerry, you mentioned once again your quest for political transition in Syria.

In your mind President Assad has to go before you focus on Daesh? Or can you convince the rebels and the Syrian army to do it simultaneously?

I would also like to ask you if you think it sets a bad precedent for Iran to get away with not coming totally clean to the IAEA about its nuclear history?

And given the fact that Jason Rezaian just passed 500 days in an Iranian prison and three other Iranian Americans are in there. Do you think it is safe for dual nationals to visit Iran and to invest there?

Mr. KERRY [UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT]: Let me begin by saying that I’m not sure I would characterize it as my quest, though this is a part of the world where quests have written a certain part of history. This is a shared goal and objective of many countries, from of all of us who have thought hard about the crisis in Syria.

President Obama has set the goal of always, from day one, believing there is only a political solution to the civil war/proxy war of Syria and that it would require, yes, some military options in order to leverage and have an impact on diplomacy but no matter what military pursuit there is, ultimately it would require a political resolution to resolve the differences that exist there.

So, what we are doing is, I think, methodically. with discipline and intensity, trying to push the diplomatic process, because Russia has indicated that it is committed to that political solution, Iran has submitted that it is seeking that political solution. All of the surrounding neighborhood and states have committed that they seek that political solution.

And so we are united in this moment because we believe it may be a right moment to try to see if we can bring countries to the table and find a rational approach to this challenge.

Now, with respect to the question of Assad and the timing, I think the answer to your question is not clear that he would have to quote goal. If there was a clarity with respect to what is future might or might not be. And the clarity with respect to that could come in the form of any number of things which give certainty to the people who believe you cannot resolve the issue while he’s there, that in fact there is going to be a resolution and therefore they could begin conceivably to cooperate more fully.

But it would be exceedingly difficult to cooperate without some indication or confidence on the part of those who have been fighting him, that in the fact there is a resolution or a solution in sight. I don’t how see how you could cooperate because under those circumstances it would be interpreted as ultimately supporting him and helping him and entrenching him, and that is completely unacceptable obviously.

So, with that said, with regard to Iran and the IAEA. First of the report is not out, it is not official yet. I know there are leaked, somebody is working on some components of it, but there is a process in place.

And the joint commission will meet, we have a team going to Vienna to meet on this in addition the Board of Governors has to meet, there is a process the P5+1 have a role to play in this. So I think it is premature to comment expect to say that nobody has had any doubts whatsoever about Iran’s past military endeavors.
From the get go, we have consistently said we know that Iran was pursuing a nuclear project, we know that it was engaged in activities prior to 2003 and subsequently, occasionally, and we have never had any questions about whether or not there would be ubiquities that come out of this process. We have predicted that.

Now, the real issue here is going forward, making certain that none of whatever happened in the past can happen going forward into the future. And that is why the implementation of the JCPOA is so critical, that is why access was built in to the JCPOA the way it was. That is why we have a team led by Ambassador Steve Mall and others working jointly, inter-agency, to follow on a daily basis the full implementation of this agreement, so that we aren’t left with any questions, not about the past but about what is happening today and tomorrow and everyday into the future.

And I am not going comment further on the report that I haven’t yet been able to personally read, or that isn’t even complete yet because the commission hasn’t that and the IE has informally released it in my judgment in its final form.

That is, I think, one other question which is JasonRezaian.Yesterday marked a sad day, obviously, in 500 days of his incarceration, which we believe is illegal, unjustified, and we have called on Iran again and again to release Jason and to release the other Americans who are being held.

I will simply say to you that in our meetings with Iran, every time we meet and have met in the last weeks, the names of each of those Americans being held are at the front of our discussion, and I will simply say to people that we are working very hard to get those Americans back home, and I call again on Iran to facilitate that process by releasing them as soon as possible.

JOURNALIST [N. Meletis, ERT]:Minister, apart from the aid given for the refugee crisis I would like to ask whether in the burden sharing and the role of the U.S., and I am talking about the refugee crisis, because the refugee crisis has been, is putting the Greek economy and society to the test – can you hear me? Do you want me to repeat the question? Did you get the first part of the question? I can repeat the question, so I start again.

So if apart from the financial aid the U.S., in assuming the responsibility that it has to deal with the refugee crisis, which has put the Greek economy and society to the test, apart from the financial you have provided, do you intend to do something to stop these waves of migrants and refugees coming from the Turkish shores and end up drowning in the sea before they can cross the Greek sea.

Does Greece have the right to protect its borders, and I am talking about violation of Greek airspace just like in the case of Turkey? Or are there two standards in this?

Thank you.

J. KERRY [UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT]: Of course there shouldn’t be two standards, and let me just say that Greece and Turkey obviously have long-established diplomatic channels for addressing Aegean issues. And I am not going to try to change those channels here today.

I simply encourage Greece and Turkey, as NATO allies, both of them, to work together to maintain good neighborly relations and to encourage peace and security in the region by cooperating together.

And I am confident that they will and that that issue can be resolved.
With respect to the refugees, I have seen many videos, some documentaries on television, tracing the path of these refugees, and I have watched them getting in these little rubber boats and cross over to one Greek island or another and to try to find the future, and find their safety.

We all saw the photograph of that three-and-a-half, four-year-old child limp in the arms of the father, being carried across the beach. So nobody is not moved by the plight of these refugees. It is a human catastrophe on a gigantic scale.

And it is one of the reasons why so many people feel so strongly that Assad couldn’t find legitimacy in the future to govern when 3/4 of his country has already voted with their feet and has had to go somewhere else to avoid barrel bombing, to avoid gassing, to avoid starvation, to avoid the terrible consequences of torture, imprisonment, and other things that have taken place there.

So, this is something, this is why I said this is not Turkey’s plight alone. This is not a Middle Eastern challenge or European challenge. It is a global challenge.
And it is why we have put 4.5 million dollars into the refugee camps in order to help, to try – 4.5 billion dollars -- to try to help cope with the immediate problem.

But we don’t want to just be writing a check and putting people into another refugee camp. That’s not a solution. The solution is to end the war. And the best way to deal with this crisis, as we have said again and again, is to make every step possible, as fast as possible, to bring about a ceasefire, get in to the political discussion and let Syrians decide the future of Syria through that discussion. That is our goal.

And that is, in the end, the best way to restore peace and to end this terrible dialing haunting reality of people who feel they have to risk their lives to actually save their lives and go across bodies and water under difficult circumstances, not able to swim, not knowing where they are going. And it is an enormous challenge.

I admire and respect the way Greece has stepped up. It is the best statement of honoring values under the toughest circumstances that one can define.

And Greece is to be applauded for that and other countries too, on the path as these people move to try to find a future.

But all of us have the obligation to do everything in our power to destroy Daesh and find a peaceful resolution in Syria. That’s the way you solve the refugee crisis and build the future for everybody at the same time.

N. KOTZIAS: I would like to thank Secretary John Kerry. And we agree fully with the U.S. assessment that the refugee issue is not a Greece issue or just a European issue. It is a global issue that is linked to the defeat of the Daesh in Syria, the political solution of the problem, the carrying out of fair elections, with the participation of the Syrian refugees, as well; that is, the Syrians currently forced to live abroad.

Moreover, I think that the latest incidents on the border of eastern Turkey confirm the need for us to learn very carefully from the relationship between national sovereignty, national rights and violations. I think and hope that the Turkish leadership, too, will think about this.

We always want international law to be implemented. We always want to champion and defend people. The Greek word ‘philoxenia’ – love for strangers – says it all.

Thank you very much.

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