Greece’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias on Monday briefed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on National Defence and Foreign Affairs on foreign policy issues, which included the challenges in the Aegean and Easter Mediterranean in the context of Turkish – Greek relations but also victories such as Greece election to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on November 25.
Following the full speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Mr. Chairman, thank you. You will allow me, after thanking you for your wishes, to wish in turn to my dear colleagues for today’s feast day, but also [for the other name days] of the past few days. We have entered the holiday season.
And to thank both you, Mr. Chairman, and the Committee, for giving me the opportunity to meet today and brief the Committee on matters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding a wide range of issues of national interest.
The first obvious issue of major national interest is our relationship with Turkey and the Cyprus issue, clarifying, of course, that the country’s foreign policy does not operate in contradistinction to Turkey and what Turkey does or says.
Ours is an autonomous, independent foreign policy, obviously designed on the basis of national interest. Of course, we would like an enduring good neighbourly relationship with the neighbouring country, Turkey, on a given basis.
This basis is the respect for International Law and International Law obviously includes the International Law of the Sea, UNCLOS, which is also part of the European acquis.
I would like to remind you of what you already know very well, dear colleagues, that UNCLOS has been ratified by the European Union itself, and not just by all its member states.
And, of course, Greece and the current government, the Mitsotakis government, always remains open to dialogue with Turkey, but in the framework that I mentioned earlier. In the framework of International Law, for resolving the dispute, the one dispute we have with the neighbouring country.
Turkey’s government needs to prove at some point the things it is declaring to its various interlocutors. That it endorses dialogue, but within this framework, not a pretextual dialogue, outside the framework, based on generalities.
And also, there is one obvious condition for the dialogue to prove successful. That is to abandon the threat of war against Greece, the casus belli and also, I repeat, that this specific framework is accepted.
The casus belli, ladies and gentlemen, is a huge issue. Because the neighbouring country is the only country on the planet, I repeat, the only country on the planet, which, in complete violation of the Charter of the United Nations, threatens a neighbouring country with war and, on top of that, it should be noted, that this unacceptable threat is being made in the case the other country, namely Greece, exercises its legal rights.
This has to go. It is not possible in the 21st century to accept the threat of war as a philosophy for coexistence. Turkey must realize that it is also in its own interest to lift the casus belli.
As regards the Cyprus issue, provocative and illegal actions should be abandoned both in the fenced-off city of Famagusta in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone, and dialogue should resume within the only acceptable framework, the framework provided for in the United Nations Security Council resolutions, namely the Bi-zonal and Bi-communal Federation.
Following our discussion and after the speeches, I hope that I will have the opportunity to brief you on the role that our country has in the new security architecture emerging in the Eastern Mediterranean, the further strengthening of our relations with important actors in our wider region, such as Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia; but also on a network of bilateral engagements and trilateral and multilateral cooperation schemes with other countries, such as Bahrain and Oman.
I believe it will be particularly interesting to discuss the important Agreements that shape the context in which we move, such as the ones with France and the United States, to discuss our relationship with the United Kingdom in the post-Brexit era, our new presence in the Middle East, Libya, Syria, our country’s interest in what is happening in the Caucasus, our firm, continuous and consistent engagement in the Balkans with emphasis on the Western Balkans’ EU accession path, especially of Albania and North Macedonia, but I do not hide from you the concerns that the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina raises. Of course, the European perspective of any country entails compliance with the set conditionality.
I would also like to brief you on our activity in areas that until recently were considered to be outside the scope of Greece’s immediate interest. I am referring to sub-Saharan Africa, the Sahel region, but also to countries of Central, East and West Africa. As you are aware, I recently visited Rwanda, Ghana, Gabon, countries that no Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs had ever visited. Immediately after Christmas I will visit Nigeria, Angola and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kenya will visit us, I will inaugurate the new Greek Embassy in Senegal and probably later I will also visit Mauritania.
I would also like you to know about the state of affairs in our relations with Russia – as you know the Prime Minister, K. Mitsotakis, is travelling there the day after tomorrow for a meeting with President Putin. Also, about our relations with China – just a few weeks ago, the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Wang Yi, visited our country – as well as a number of evolving opportunities with countries that were previously beyond our horizon. I am referring to two meetings with the Minister of External Affairs of India, the first of which took place during his visit to Athens. I am also referring to the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs’ visit to Athens the day after tomorrow and to the scheduled meetings with the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan.
Finally, we can discuss how our candidacy, our most important candidacy, for the United Nations Security Council is progressing. I’m happy to tell you that at the moment we have secured 95 pledges, and are very close to the absolute majority. There are no other contenders. There are two candidates, us and Denmark. There is no one competing with us for the two seats for the time being.
I would also like to refer to the success we had with our recent election to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on November 25. We are all aware in this room of the reason why this election was very important to us. Also, to our election to the UN International Civil Service Commission; to our campaign to fill one seat in the International Court of Justice which did not result in an election, but Professor Sicilianos’ candidacy obtained 71 votes – which is an excellent result, since it was a very difficult campaign considering that the Professor’s opponent was vying for the remaining term of a position declared vacant following the death of a Judge; and also our candidacy for the International Maritime Organization Council, with the elections scheduled to be held on December 15.
It is extremely important for the country to have candidacies and to achieve successes and to participate in international bodies, you can understand that.
Dear colleagues, we live in an ever-evolving environment. In this environment, we pursue an outward-looking principled policy based on International Law and international legality. We are acting following the lines of this policy. Our compass over time has always been the safeguarding of our sovereignty and sovereign rights, the protection of our national interest and the promotion of universal values. For all this, I look forward to a constructive discussion.
I have to say that I believe we agree on the key axes of our foreign policy, notwithstanding individual nuances and different points of view, that enrich the dialogue and should be encouraged. However, in conclusion, I want to state that we cannot afford the luxury of pretextual disagreements, because the situation always carries the risk of becoming critical.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.