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Monday, July 1, 2019

Main points of Minister of Foreign Affairs Giorgos Katrougalos’ statements on ‘Newsit Debate”, with journalist Nikos Evangelatos (28 June 2019)

Minister of Foreign Affairs Giorgos Katrougalos today participated in the “Newsit Debate” segment on the Newsit website, along with the New Democracy shadow minister for foreign affairs, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, and the journalist Nikos Evangelatos. Below are the key points the Minister of Foreign Affairs made during the debate:It is the job of all ministers of foreign affairs to be constantly vigilant. Regarding of our relations with Turkey, on the military/defence level, I can say that Greeks should feel safe and secure. Never before has our country’s voice been so strong and respected. Never before has Turkey been isolated on the diplomatic level, due not to our actions, but to its own choice to act outside the bounds of international legality.That is why the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) met, so that we could get a full picture of things as they currently stand, that the deterrent force of our armed forces is such that any reckless action in the Aegean will not even be considered.The truth is, Turkey traditionally exercises foreign policy for its domestic audience. It has a longstanding policy of revisionism. It really does want to create grey areas. Of late, we have seen this characteristic trend intensify, so that you could say Turkish foreign policy is addressed to specific camps in the domestic audience. We have to take this into account in order not to respond in kind by escalating the rhetoric, which we have no reason to do, and to recognise the limits of our interlocutor.With regard to hydrocarbons, Turkey’s big mistake was thinking that projecting power would be enough to create new accomplished facts that would call international legality into question. From very early on, we worked in the eastern Mediterranean with a network of alliances that was not designed to oppose Turkey. This network had a positive agenda. What was this positive agenda? To capitalize on the energy findings, the hydrocarbons in the region of Cyprus at first, as you saw, and as of yesterday – with the signing of the contract with ExxonMobil and Total and HELPE – south of Crete.Together with Cyprus, we had very effective trilateral cooperation with the states of the region: mainly Egypt and Israel, but also Palestine and Jordan. And we invited the U.S. to join this energy forum. So, what did we achieve? In the framework of legality and through moves that were not directed against Turkey but promoted a positive agenda, we created, for the first time, a positive set of accomplishments in our region. What were these positive accomplishments? Cyprus’s delimitation of its EEZ with the other countries, and licensing of its blocks.In the Aegean, delimitation of the continental shelf has long been our only dispute with Turkey. There are Turkish nationalists who make absurd and illegal claims on our islands. We hear this most strongly from the Kemalist opposition. But when you talk with diplomats, they realise that these are diversions and that there is only one substantial dispute for them and us: the continental shelf and obviously the EEZ, because they are essentially the same thing. On this issue, in our bilateral talks, the “exploratory talks”, we always tried to reach a level where we could have an agreement.This is the line we have to follow, not just because it is the line of international legality that our country always follows, but also because it gets results. Where are these results, you’ll ask, given that they are sending drill ships to the Cypriot EEZ? It gets results because they can no longer create accomplished facts in their favour. When everyone condemns you for violating international legality, for being a state that makes confrontational moves, you don’t gain, you lose.We won’t make announcements [about possible drilling within the Cypriot EEZ]. The Cypriot government will. There are conflicting reports. The Turks, as you know, have confirmed it. Obviously, we won’t take a stance on this until the Republic of Cyprus has taken a stance.It is qualitatively different from seismic research. We should neither play it down nor gloss over it. It is a more serious violation. But it isn't an irreparable, irreversible violation. Even if drilling takes place or is taking place, this is just an additional challenge to Cyprus’s sovereign rights. It doesn't establish Turkish rights, just as adverse possession is not established on a piece of your land if someone digs a ditch there.No international company will enter into talks with Turkey when it knows that Turkey's claims are completely out of touch with international law. Companies working with Turkey on these exploratory drillings are already starting to withdraw. And individual members of the crew also left when international arrest warrants were issued by the Republic of Cyprus.[Regarding the EEZ in the Aegean], we insist on the exploratory mandates, the bilateral political dialogue. Right now, it isn’t in our government’s outlook – I don’t know what will happen in the future with the International Court, because this doesn't seem to be part of Turkey’s planning right now. The message we consistently send is that we are a country that moves within the framework of international legality, based solely on international law, and we want to discuss the issue. The exploratory talks took place in the past. Due to Turkey’s conduct, they were suspended. They have to start up again.Turkey’s actions [in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean] must be seen as a reaction to its isolation. For the first time, Turkey is clearly losing, and Greece and Cyprus are making gains. My interpretation is that Turkey’s provocative moves are not indicative of power, but of weakness. And where does this weakness come from? After the licensing of blocks to multinational companies, for the first time we are seeing the creation of our own legal accomplished facts based on international law, and not on the projection of power. Ours in the sense that we have a common national policy that we chart together with the Republic of Cyprus.For the first time, as a result of this very important new state of affairs, which didn’t create itself but resulted from a systematic diplomatic effort, time is now working against Turkey. Turkey sees this, and it would not be rational on its part to continue a diplomatic tactic from which it is losing. […] Turkey is not an irrational player. It just operates on terms that are different from ours. We operate based on international law, while Turkey bases its actions on the projection of power. But as this tactic continues to fail, as it continues not to gain anything, Turkey will have to rethink its approach and arrive at the only logical conclusion.[Through our foreign policy] we confirmed our role as a factor for stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, through specific foreign policy measures. The Prespa Agreement for the Balkans, the trilateral cooperation schemes, many of which already existed but were upgraded to such a level for the first time. The strategic dialogue with the United States and specific policy measures, such as the EastMed, were planned under our government. So, precisely because our policy has continuity, and because diplomatic achievements should be recognised whenever they are made, it think this should be universally accepted and not be something political parties argue over. This is the first time, with energy as leverage, that Turkey is losing, losing significantly, and being isolated. It is my sense that, due to this fact, and for the first time in decades, we have the potential for substantial dialogue with Turkey based on international legality.It seems right now, from the statements Turkish official are making, that Turkey will get and install the S-400 system. Because of this, there are already specific reactions in Congress. Senator Menendez has submitted the “EastMed” bill, which relates to the Eastern Mediterranean. But, I repeat that we have gained the recognition of our country as an independent pillar of stability, regardless of what Turkey does. We aren’t betting on and we don't want Turkey’s isolation from its alliances or from the western world, because a hostile Turkey is worse for us than a Turkey that is loyal to its alliances. Whichever way the situation goes, we – from much better positions than we were in the past – will meet the challenge.[Regarding relations with Albania], my predecessor, Nikos Kotzias, proceeded, with the previous Foreign Minister of Albania, Mr. Bushati, to a rapprochement package on most of the issues. We witnessed some positive developments, like the burial of our dead soldiers, and while it looked like this would usher in a new era, we had the assassination of Katsifas, which reversed things on the psychological, not substantial, level. Then we had the great instability in our neighbouring country, which did not allow for the completion of the diplomatic process. The fact alone that there was no constitutional Court blocked the completion of the process on the exclusive economic zoned, because in the past, as you know, the Albanian Constitutional Court deemed that the previous agreement concluded with us was unconstitutional. On this level too, we have taken things much further ahead than they were taken in the past. We have done very systematic work. The negotiations have not been completed, because even if only 1% of the issues have not been completed, then there is no agreement. Nothing is finished until everything has been agreed upon.As a condition for the continuation of North Macedonia’s European accession process, we have secured the process’s being linked fully with faithful implementation of the Prespa Agreement. This is the best way to ensure compliance with the provisions of the agreement. When there are violations, we point them out and they are corrected. The slogan “Timeless Macedonia”, which they had on their webpage, has already been changed and corrected as North Macedonia, and the website of North Macedonia’s Tourism Organization will be called “Timeless”.The potential we have to block the usage of the name “Timeless Macedonia” and to ask for the implementation of what was agreed on as the country’s new name derives solely from the Prespa Agreement. The fact that we can ask them to change the names of the wines they call Macedonian derives from the Prespa Agreement. We are now in a better position to handle absolutely every aspect of our relations with our northern neighbour.