Elaboration and review of the draft law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “Ratification of the Agreement between the Government of the Hellenic Republic and the Government of the United Arab Emirates on joint cooperation in foreign policy and defence and the notes verbales on the Greek version of the original text of the Agreement”
Thank you so much, Mr. Speaker. It is obvious that today’s meeting, although its subject matter is different, is overshadowed by the dramatic developments in Ukraine. We had a debate in the Plenary Session of the Parliament on this. The Prime Minister, Mr. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, briefed the Parliament.
In addition, I would just like to mention something that is well known. Our country’s actions are based on three fundamental principles: Humanitarian law, the principle of respect for the territorial integrity of states in accordance with the United Nations Charter and, beyond that, on the alignment with its allies and partners in NATO and the European Union.
Our policy regarding Ukraine is therefore guided by these fundamental principles. I will focus on humanitarian law, because, as all my colleagues have pointed out, the scenes broadcast on TV are tragic, they can only cause the horror of every human being.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine causes tragedies, children who die tragically, newborns who are killed in maternity hospitals, families who are forced to flee. As we speak, there are already 2,800,000 refugees from Ukraine.
These are but a few of the devastating consequences that the Russian invasion has brought upon Ukraine. And in the midst of all this – and it was rightly observed – there are the Diaspora Greeks living on the shores of the Black Sea, from Odessa to Mariupol and Sartana in Ukrainian territory, who are suffering the tragic consequences from the Russian invasion.
As you are aware, ladies and gentlemen MPs, I visited Odessa, I visited Mariupol, I tried, upon instruction from the Prime Minister, to remind in any way possible of the presence of the Diaspora Greeks there and to protect them as much as possible.
Diaspora Greeks mourned and continue to mourn victims. And the accurate number of victims will be established after the end of this tragedy.
I would like to reiterate the reference made by my dear colleague, Andreas Loverdos, on the request that our country co-sponsored to the International Criminal Court for the investigation of war crimes; crimes which, in essence, are committed against humanity.
Beyond that, I would like to offer you some information, because in the course of this debate I was also receiving updates with regards to the Consul General of Greece in Mariupol, who, as a matter of fact, was not held hostage by anyone. Upon my instruction he had moved to the OSCE premises, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which I visited a few days ago and so I was aware that there is a shelter in the building, a proper shelter, not just a basement.
Consequently, when to his credit – I want to emphasize this – he chose to remain there, when Ambassador Fragiskos Kostellenos accompanied the first evacuation operation, I asked Mr. Androulakis in a teleconference whether or not it would be wise for him to leave as well.
And I have to testify this, to the credit of both of them: Mr. Fragiskos Kostellenos said to me: “no, I too will go back”. And Mr. Androulakis told me: “no, I will not leave”. Their answer honours the Diplomatic Corps.
The same applies for our Consul General in Odessa, Mr. Dochtsis, who carried out three evacuation operations, three ‘Nostos’ operations.
Mr. Androulakis is currently in a city called Berdyansk, on the way to Zaporizhzhia. I am hopeful that he will soon return home.
I assure you, and I do not want to dwell further on that, everything was done that could have been done, first with the Ukrainian authorities, then with the Russians who were attacking on the city and causing civilian casualties, with the Red Cross, the OSCE and the Vatican.
A short while ago I spoke with the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Gallagher. In the last three days, the Vatican, through the Caritas organisation, supplied with fuel and food the premises where our Consul General was, along with 120 other people, in the shelter I mentioned previously.
I will only say two things about Turkey and then I will come to the Agreement, although I have little to say about it, since I believe that our diligent rapporteur, Mr. Nikolakopoulos, has adequately analysed both its content and its importance.
Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, accepted President Erdoğan’s invitation and I believe we all agree that he was right to accept it.
It was an informal meeting. Nevertheless, he had the courtesy to inform all political leaders.
Since it was an informal meeting, it is obvious that there could be no conclusions, agenda or minutes.
It is certain that the Greek Prime Minister, like every Prime Minister in the course of the country’s history, adhered to the firm positions of Greek foreign policy, there is no doubt about that.
But we have all agreed over time that channels of communication should exist and it would be a grave mistake if we broke off all dialogue.
This does not mean in any way that we share Turkish views. Besides, you are very well aware that Greece and Turkey, to our perception, have only one outstanding difference. This should be the subject for discussion; the rest concern Turkey.
The only one dispute concerns the continental shelf and the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean. This is our only difference with Turkey. The rest, I reiterate so as not to be misunderstood, concerns Turkey.
I would like now to turn to the Agreement. I shall not elaborate any further. I am telling you, Mr. Nikolakopoulos was, I believe, absolutely clear and elaborated rightly on the articles; rightly and in the proper constitutional manner. And for reasons of political legitimacy, if you like, he submitted the request for a roll-call vote, so that there will be no issues raised, although I understand the Agreement has the support of an overwhelming majority.
But I want to say something that has rightly been raised, and that is the issue of economic cooperation between the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.
I want to be clear, ladies and gentlemen MPs. This Agreement is part of a foreign policy framework, which I have analysed for you. I have analysed the cycles with which Greek foreign policy envisages the creation of areas of contact, communication and understanding with a large number of countries.
And it is still guided by the principles and values that our country’s foreign policy has always adhered to, but I think, in a more advanced and active, if you like, way. And this foreign policy resulted in the signing of a number of particularly important Agreements. First of all, the delimitation of an Exclusive Economic Zone with Italy and Egypt, two defence cooperation Agreements with the United States, the Agreement with France and the Agreement we are ratifying with the United Arab Emirates.
Our government has signed a total of 146 bilateral agreements and 40 multilateral ones. I do not know if there has ever been a period similar to this in the history of the Greek State.
As for the Agreement with the United Arab Emirates, we took advantage of a window of opportunity, but we also perceived correctly the new architecture of the region. Greece, already being a close friend of the State of Israel, discerned that the old architecture of distinction between Israel and the Arab countries was no longer valid. And it was rightly considered, as the Abraham Accords have proved, that Greece could combine its excellent relations with the Arab world with the excellent relations with Israel.
And this Agreement that we are ratifying today with the support of the vast majority of the Parliament, is a result of this insight of the Greek foreign policy which almost all of you support and rightly so.
And there were rhetorical questions raised in the room; what if Turkey threatens Greece or if someone else threatens Greece, will this Agreement provide any practical results?
First of all, I would like to tell you two things. First, this Agreement is not directed against anyone. It is an Agreement in favour of the states and peoples who co-sign it.
But, secondly, for reasons of political and national honesty, I have to remind all of you that when the Turkish fleet was sailing in the Eastern Mediterranean, if I remember correctly, four UAE F-16 Block 60 aircraft with 130 personnel were stationed at the airport of Chania in Crete.
Because the worst that could happen to a country and to its people is to forget or not to take notice. And of course, I do not claim that these planes were stationed in Chania threatening Turkey.
But I want you just to bear in mind that. As I would like you to note that before Mohamed bin Zayed’s trip to Turkey, the UAE Minister of State, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, had visited Athens, he visited the Prime Minister, and he also visited me.
And you can consider his visit a coincidence. But I would like to ask you to bear in mind this fact, as well. Ladies and gentlemen MPs, I would also like you to take notice of the joint statement of the Governments of Greece and the United Arab Emirates, attached to this Agreement. I will not read it to you, but I would like each of you to read it, and in particular read what is stated regarding the condemnation by the two governments of the violation of our country’s sovereignty and sovereign rights.
So, the Agreement that we are bringing to the Parliament for ratification is clear, evident, and completely compatible with the Greek foreign policy, with the foreign policy of the Mitsotakis government. And I want to tell you that once again I feel proud to submit it, but also grateful to the Parliament for the way it views this Agreement; largely in a spirit of solidarity and understanding of what should be done in order to safeguard the country’s interests.
Because Greece has achieved to become a powerful country, a country that operates within the framework of understandings with a wide range of countries, a country that believes in principles and values, which it implements with its policy.
We are not a country that pursues an à la carte policy and this has become evident from our stance on Ukraine. Greece is not an enemy of anyone. It responds to its foreign policy issues on the basis of the principles and values that we traditionally express as a society and as a nation. That is what we have been doing.
We have always been standing for International Law. We believe that this is in our interest but if you want to go one step further, we believe that this is the right thing to do.
Thank you very much.