HomeGreeceMinister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ remarks at the Economist 17th Annual...

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ remarks at the Economist 17th Annual Cyprus Summit and the panel discussion “Can the potential of peace and co-operation prevail in the Eastern Mediterranean?” (Nicosia, 16.11.2021)

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ remarks at the Economist 17th Annual Cyprus Summit and the panel discussion “Can the potential of peace and co-operation prevail in the Eastern Mediterranean?” (Nicosia, 16.11.2021)Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ remarks at the Economist 17th  Annual Cyprus Summit and the panel discussion “Can the potential of peace and co-operation prevail in the Eastern Mediterranean?- Adherence to the international law: Is it a sufficient condition for peace in the region?” (Nicosia, 16.11.2021)

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, it is my pleasure to be here in Nicosia today and a great honour to take the floor following my friend, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulides. Nikos Christodoulides and I maintain the closest cooperation in all fields, especially within the framework of the EU Foreign Affairs Council.

I would also like to thank the Economist for inviting me here in Nicosia today and for providing me with the opportunity to address a very distinguished audience.

The discussion relies on a particularly interesting, and I would like to say even fascinating question. Especially for someone like me, for whom the study and application of Law is the backdrop of my life and my professional capacity.

The key question I was asked: is respect for International Law a sufficient condition for peace in the region?

A clear question needs a perfectly clear answer. And in my view, respect for International Law is in itself, I repeat, a sufficient condition for peace. I could provide a complex answer involving many factors. But, in my judgment, a complex view of things results in not answering the question.

So I will also repeat it in English, at its exact wording, for us to know what we are talking about here in the Eastern Mediterranean. “International Law is a sufficient condition for peace in our region”.

I am directing this to the room, and you will allow me to direct it outside this room. It is simple even as a logical reasoning. If all states respected International Law, and consequently the United Nations Charter, there simply would be no wars. Therefore, it is the essential, sufficient and necessary condition for peace.

And of course, it is the necessary condition for the peaceful resolution of differences. Because between neighbouring states there are – inevitably so – differences.

The question is how to resolve disputes. Are they to be resolved militarily, as was the case in the past centuries, or peacefully, as is our aspiration nowadays?

And if we want to resolve them peacefully, on the basis of what rules shall we achieve this? If we do not all apply the same rules, the problem becomes unsolvable; because this is not the case of the domestic legal order, where law is imposed by the state, which, according to Weber, has the prerogative of the legitimate use of force.

There is no Leviathan in the International Community, as Thomas Hobbes had envisaged it, to enforce law. It is up to the states themselves to shape it and, above all, implement it.

Allow me to give an example from everyday life. If we try to solve a geometry problem together and one side uses Euclidean geometry, where there are parallel lines, while the other uses parabolic geometry, where there are no parallel lines. What is the chance of finding a common solution to this problem?

Therefore we need to have common rules. And these common rules, ladies and gentleman, are the International Law. There is nothing else available to humanity in the 21st century.

Interestingly, the foundations of International Law were laid at the same time that the nation-state emerged as a key actor in international relations, in the 17th century. And also of interest is that the principal works of Grotius, the so-called “father of International Law”, concerned on the one hand the law on war and peace, and on the other hand – and this is particularly important for our region – the law on the freedom of the seas; namely, the distant predecessors of the United Nations Charter and UNCLOS, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Because we, the Hellenic Republic, are committed to International law and the International Law of the Sea as a fundamental principle and value of our foreign policy, not only in theory, but mainly in practice. Our main aim is to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Mediterranean, but also in the world.

In order to achieve this, the Mitsotakis government, in which I have the honour to participate, has undertaken a number of initiatives. Nikos had the kindness to refer to a great many of them previously.

With the aim of peacefully resolving our disputes on the basis of the rules of International Law. We have concluded an Agreement with Italy on our Exclusive Economic Zones. We have concluded an Agreement with Egypt on our Exclusive Economic Zones. We agreed with Albania to refer our dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. We have signed Defence Agreements with the United Arab Emirates, with France. However, all these Agreements include an explicit reference to the United Nations Charter.

Because these agreements, ladies and gentlemen, are not directed against anyone. They pose neither a direct or indirect threat to third countries.

We, Greece, together with the Republic of Cyprus, promote cooperation in the region. And we promote it – again Nikos has covered this issue for me – through trilateral and multilateral schemes as well. The next one will be held in Athens with the participation of our Egyptian friend, Sameh Shoukry, and the French Minister Mr. Le Drian.

The agenda of these schemes is not at all limited, it is a very broad one. They are called upon to address common challenges: the pandemic, climate change. They aim to enhance cooperation, interconnectivity in areas such as energy and transport, which are necessary for economic growth. And always on the basis of a permanent common denominator and element: the respect for the principles of International Law.

And my answer to Turkey is this: the purpose of these schemes is not to encircle or exclude Turkey. They are schemes open to everyone, with one imperative requirement and condition: respect for International Law.

Greece and the Republic of Cyprus, through their active engagement within the European Union – a Community of Principles and Values, the most important, in my view, project of cooperation between states in the history of humankind – so in this way, through this engagement, we believe that we lay yet another foundation for the consolidation of peace and stability on the planet.

And our key priority, a key priority of Greece, is the enlargement of the European Union to include, first, the Western Balkans, our neighborhood, and maybe in the future, if Turkish society so chooses, Turkey as well.

Yet again, under the imperative condition of acceptance of the criteria for accession, including the European Acquis, which, I should point out, includes UNCLOS. UNCLOS, ladies and gentlemen, is not only a treaty that all the member states of the European Union have signed. Few may have noticed that the European Union itself has signed UNCLOS. Therefore, it is the very definition of European Acquis. And of course, countries that wish to join us in our shared future must subscribe to the principles of good neighbourliness.

Unfortunately, respect for International Law in our region is still a dream, maybe a distant dream I’m afraid. And it is my obligation, as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, being here in Nicosia today, to remind and remember that yesterday was the 38th anniversary of the declaration of the pseudo-state, a declaration that was promptly condemned with Resolution 541/83 by all the permanent members of the UN Security Council, in the middle of the Cold War nonetheless. To make matters worse, Turkish conduct has deteriorated dramatically since then. Violations of fundamental principles of International Law, the threat to use force – I remind of the casus belli against Greece – as well as violations of provisions of the Law of the Sea continue unabated. As an addition to this long list other issues have arisen: occupation of territories of neighboring countries, continued violations of sovereignty and sovereign rights, the unprecedented hybrid threat of the instrumentalization of the migrant issue, which has found imitators, for instance, in the person of the Belarus dictator who is attempting as of recent to blackmail the European Union by instrumentalizing human suffering, by instrumentalizing the hopes of our fellow humans for a better life.

But ladies and gentlemen, I did not come here to talk about Turkey. I came to talk about Greece and Hellenism.

Ladies and gentlemen, Greece and Cyprus are not large countries. Greece, either alone, or together with Cyprus, cannot determine international developments. However, through respect for and promotion of International Law and the International Law of the Sea, we seek to contribute to the creation of a better community of States, a better community of people; to strive so that the lives of the peoples in the region will not be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” as Hobbes wrote; to reverse the long-standing stereotype of the “Balkanization” of the region; to contribute through our efforts to establishing a zone of stability, security, peace, prosperity for all peoples, for all people in our region.

Thank you so much.


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