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Friday, June 21, 2019

Minister of Foreign Affairs Giorgos Katrougalos’ interview on news 94.3 radio – Excerpts on foreign policy

JOURNALIST: Minister of Foreign Affairs Giorgos Katrougalos is joining us today over the phone. Thank you very much, Minister. Good morning. And we thank you for this chance to talk. G. KATROUGALOS: Thank you for the invitation. Good morning to you too and to your listeners. JOURNALIST: Let’s begin then, seeing that being the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I’m assuming you’re keeping a close eye on the developments in Oman. The situation seems out of the ordinary and all this exchange between Iran and the USA is causing global concern. So I would like you to tell us how closely is Greek diplomacy, the Greek side, monitoring developments. If it is monitoring the situation and whether there is concern on your part. G. KATROUGALOS: We are monitoring it quite closely. I just got back from Bahrain, which is just a few kilometres away from the place where the incident took place in the Gulf and the reason we are monitoring it is not only because we have an interest in the area, but also because we have an interest in free shipping, since we are mainly a maritime nation and have many commercial ships.Therefore, it is one of the issues that concerns us greatly, even though the situation in the Strait of Hormuz has not been clarified yet, so that we may know who was behind this attack.As you know, our country has always adhered to international law and especially the law of the sea, and we believe that any differences must be resolved based on those criteria and on peaceful political dialogue. JOURNALIST: Minister, to get back to our neck of the woods, there is intense activity on the part of Turkey. The Turks are probably whistling to their own tune. The thing is that although the Cypriot government is making its own efforts, having even sent warrants to put a stop to this process, it seems that at a European Union level – and even though you managed to get a statement from the EU countries against Turkey, and this was a personal victory – the reaction of the EU to put the Turks in their place was not as powerful or firm.Where do you see this going? Do you share the various views of Greek politicians that we may potentially be very close to an accident? Very close to a heated incident? And that the summer won’t be easy when it comes to Turkey? G. KATROUGALOS: You are right in saying that Turkey is following a policy of historical revisionism, as we call it, meaning in short that it challenges international conventions and international law. The exact opposite of our policy, where we have always based our national interests on international legality. So what's the difference between today and the time of the Imia let’s say? Neither was Turkey as isolated internationally nor did Greece have such firm and upgraded prestige. You might ask why this might interest us. It interests us very much so because where do Turkey's efforts lie? It is trying to grey out areas in the Aegean, the eastern Mediterranean, meaning to doubt the state of affairs of the international law, creating a dispute.However, the Americans and the Europeans, all the international players, are not accepting that there is dispute, that we have something to split with Turkey, but on the contrary condemn these behaviours by Turkey as illegal.And as a result it is not escaping from its isolation, but is becoming all the more isolated. Obviously, we will attempt to get an even firmer response from the EU, with tangible things that should cause concern to Turkey at a time when its economy has gone from the verge of growth to crisis, with close to 20% inflation and 30% devaluation of the lira.They’re not things any politician would not think about; and President Erdogan may be unpredictable, but he is not just any politician.As to the possibility of a heated incident in the Aegean, I assure you that despite the provocativeness of its actions, the other side does not want a heated incident either, both because it knows it cannot gain anything this way in the Aegean and obviously because it does not want to further burden the state of its economy. What I said before applies.Naturally, as tension accumulates, we must admit that no one can rule out the risk of an accident. That’s why we are continuing talks with the other side, so we can decide on these confidence building measures, which are not measures for resolving our differences, but measures to defuse the tension, to avoid, be it by mistake or accident, anything in our seas that neither side wants.