HomeGreeceMinister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ interview with “Proto Thema” newspaper and...

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ interview with “Proto Thema” newspaper and journalist Makis Pollatos – highlights (25.03.2023)

N. DENDIAS: Every country and government is responsible for resolving the issues that concern it. And Greece has always sought an understanding with Türkiye- that is why the exploratory contacts between the two countries were conducted. Yet, as we have made clear on many occasions, these contacts and any discussion must take place within a strict framework governed by International Law and the Law of the Sea.
JOURNALIST: Is direct consultation with Türkiye on the two countries’ most pressing issues preferable, or do you believe that friends’ and allies’ mediation to appease Turkish expansionism is more effective? What conclusion have you reached after four years as the head of the Greek diplomacy?
JOURNALIST: As regards Greek-Turkish relations, many may argue that “we shouldn’t be up in arms all the time” in a state of waiting, but as Minister of Foreign Affairs, are you convinced of the sincerity of Turkish intentions or are you suspicious that it could be Erdogan’s tactics? Have you received guarantees from Ankara that the next incident in the Aegean would not trigger a sequence of events culminating in threats of a Turkish missile attack on the Greek capital?
JOURNALIST: Is “sailing in calm waters” the goal of the new relationship of mutual trust with Türkiye until elections are held in both countries or may we anticipate a resolution of the sole dispute over the delimitation of the continental shelf in the Aegean?
N. DENDIAS: The parameters of Turkish behavior towards us have changed. Immediately after the tragedy of the earthquakes in Türkiye and my visit there, Türkiye’s unlawful conduct appears to have vanished. There are no violations in the Aegean, no overflights, no toxic language, no aggressive rhetoric, and no threat of violence. Greece has consistently stated that it seeks dialogue under precisely these conditions. Thus, we owe it to, have an obligation, if you like, to respond to such Turkish behavior.
Aside from that, Greece, in recent years, has managed to make Greek-Turkish relations part of EU-Türkiye relations, offering us a broader framework for action. At the same time, we have formed a network of relations and alliances with states in the wider region – states with which we share common perceptions – which, in my opinion, provides us with further guarantees for addressing the issues of the region. In conclusion, I’d say that by acting together with a wide range of states, we are co-shaping an environment of security and stability, while at the same time, strengthening the country’s position and increasing its geopolitical footprint.  It would be important for Türkiye to join this circle, as well.
N. DENDIAS: I’d say that with practically every major foreign policy choice and agreement that Greece makes, such as the agreements with Italy, Egypt, France, the UAE, and Albania, there are those who claim that “we have lost”. That is not how international relations work, though. In fact, it is an understanding with a very positive connotation. I believe it is undeniably a step towards creating a milder climate, which is necessary so that our relations normalize to some extent.  Whether there will be a follow-up is highly dependent on the Turkish side’s further actions.
I’m not suggesting that we’ve gained more from our agreement at Türkiye’s expense, or that we got more from Türkiye than we gave. It’s obvious that Türkiye has chosen this symbolism at this particular juncture; it has selected it; Türkiye is not naive. However, you realize the significance of this symbolism if- and I am fully aware of the difficulties – Türkiye continues to operate on the basis of this framework indicated by its current moves, and what this would entail for the peoples and societies of both countries. So, to conclude, I’d say that there has been a window of opportunity here. Greece had an absolute obligation to walk through the door that Türkiye opened. Time will tell whether this will have a happy ending or simply be a passing phenomenon. Nonetheless, it would be inexcusable for the Greek side not to attempt to make the most out of this change.
Many people have expressed the thought that this situation will not last. I cannot tell, but imagine how horrible it would be if Türkiye extended a hand of understanding to Greece and Greece refused it in contradiction to its statements thus far. And allow me to add this – and I appreciate the opportunity: Turkish support for the Greek candidacy for the Security Council has enormous symbolism. Why? Because the United Nations Security Council is humanity’s nearest equivalent to a global government, being precisely the custodian of the United Nations Charter and International Law.
JOURNALIST: Greek-Turkish relations are like a roller coaster. What has changed from 2021, when what you said in Ankara in an insubordinate defense of national sovereign rights made you a protagonist, to Monday, March 20, when you met with Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Türkiye announced that it supports the Greek candidacy for the Security Council and you agreed to relaunch bilateral relations?
JOURNALIST: How do you respond to criticism that the support for Türkiye’s candidacy for the International Maritime Organization is excessively generous considering that Ankara does not recognize the International Law of the Sea and has closed its ports to ships flying the flag of the Republic of Cyprus?
Turkish support, therefore, carries a symbolism that cannot be ignored. The Greek support for the Turkish candidacy for the IMO General Secretariat, a position which Greece also held with an excellent Secretary General, Admiral Efthymis Mitropoulos, concerns the General Secretariat of an organization in whose Council we also participate. It’s something entirely different.
N. DENDIAS: As I already said, after the earthquakes in Türkiye, we are experiencing a completely different reality. The Joint Statement on the Greece-Türkiye Positive Agenda 4th Meeting, which took place in Ankara on 22 March, reflects this new reality; as did my recent meeting with my Turkish counterpart, M. Çavuşoğlu in Brussels. I’d like to emphasize once more that the Greek government, the Mitsotakis government, is fully aware of the difficulties of Greek-Turkish relations, as I also mentioned earlier.  For this reason, we look forward to Türkiye responding consistently and in good faith to the new prospects that are emerging for a positive course in our bilateral relations, not only in the near future but also in the long term.
N. DENDIAS: Greece’s desire and goal is the delimitation of the continental shelf and EEZ with all neighboring countries, on the basis of International Law and the International Law of the Sea. We’ve done it with Italy and Egypt, and we are currently working on it with Albania. We intend to continue the relevant dialogue with Libya, following the formation of a democratically elected government in that country. And obviously, we want to do so with Türkiye, through a constructive dialogue, which, I reiterate, should be conducted on the basis of International Law and the International Law of the Sea. I sincerely hope that the climate of solidarity that has recently developed between the two societies will contribute in this regard. Of course, it’s still too early to draw any firm conclusions as to whether this will occur. However, in any event, what has recently been achieved between the two countries has its own merit, especially when we consider where we were just a few weeks ago. We should, therefore, keep working to maintain this climate.


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