Remarks with Defense Minister Papantoniou (Embassy translation) after their meetingMarc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Remarks at the Greek Ministry of Defense
November 4, 2002
DEFENSE MINISTER PAPANTONIOU (delivered in Greek): With U.S. Under Secretary of State Mr. Grossman, we had a very interesting and substantive discussion on all issues pertaining to our region, as well as issues regarding security around the world. First of all, we discussed the developments in Turkey after the result of yesterday's elections. We both agreed that it was a victory of democracy, and that the victory of democracy counts more than anything else. It confirms a democratic course, which, as long as it is encouraged and promoted by all of Turkey's friends and partners, may end up in Turkey's accession to the EU.
As you know, Greece actively and substantially supports Turkey's European perspective, with the belief that this corresponds both to the interest of the Turkish people and the interest of Greek - Turkish relations. The values and principles in which the EU believes, i.e. democracy, human rights, respect for international law, outline the framework in which the relations between the two countries can and must be developed. Particularly in today's circumstances, the solution of the major issue, that of Cyprus, must be guided by these values and principles. The Greek government is looking forward, in a positive spirit, to cooperating with the government that will be formed in Turkey, and wishes to believe that the positive policy of Greece toward Turkey and its European perspective will be met with a substantial response, with the Cyprus issue being on the top of the list.
Further, we discussed with Mr. Grossman the developments on the Cyprus issue in view of the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the EU in Copenhagen in early December. The accession is a given. It is independent of the solution of the political problem, as it has been stated many times in Helsinki, and later by all European leaders. This is something that is accepted by all international elements, the US included.
On the other hand, it is known that Greece and Cyprus are deeply concerned with finding a good and just solution to the Cyprus problem and having an end to the Cyprus tragedy. For this reason, the Greek government is strongly supporting the efforts made by the Greek Cypriot side, certainly in cooperation with the UN Secretary General Mr. Annan toward finding a just solution to the Cyprus problem.
There may be developments on this issue soon through the initiatives of the UN Secretary General. I don't know it but the possibility is not excluded. We remain steadily focused on the basic principles of a political solution of the Cyprus issue which are: respect for international law, a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, which has been persistently supported and proposed by the Cypriot side for many years now; and, certainly, the self-evident absolute respect to the acquis communautaire which demands unified state representation to the EU Councils when a country becomes member.
Finally, with Mr. Grossman we discussed in length issues concerning security in the Balkans. We agreed that there are positive developments in most Balkan countries toward stability and the strengthening of peace, but we also agreed that there are still areas of friction, and tensions and concern in several Balkan countries due to the persistence of social problems, social differences, ethnic tensions, economic problems, and also due to the fact that there are still many weapons stored in Balkan countries. Consequently, there is need for continuous alert on the part of the international community, the EU and the US so that we may secure the steady democratic and peaceful course of Balkan countries. As far as Greece is concerned, both as a Balkan country and as the EU Chairman on defense issues, it is struggling in many ways, exerting its political, economic and defense influence through its participation in the international missions that exist all over the Balkans today.
The United States, as Mr. Grossman assured me, will continue, to the extent possible, to be present wherever needed. We must remain alert because it will be a shame if all the efforts of the international community for so many years to contribute to the creation of a climate of stability and peace in the Balkans do not have the fortunate outcome that we all hope for. We must remain alert in order to solidify this development.
Finally, Mr. Grossman informed me of the developments on Iraq, the course of the discussions in the framework of the UN and the wish of the U.S. to reach a resolution that will cover the needs of the fight against international terrorism, but these are issues that he may want to say more.
As for Greece, I underlined Greece's will to be present in the fight against international terrorism but also our strong will to have full support on the part of the international community to the efforts toward Iraq's disarmament. This is why we insist on a peaceful solution to this serious problem. This is extremely important for Greece and the entire EU: the pursuit of a peaceful solution to the problem of Iraq.
UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Mr. Minister, thank you very much. I appreciate the chance to be here today, I very much appreciate the chance to see the Minister again. He and I shared a platform in Washington earlier this year, so, I thank you very much for your time, sir.
The Minister very well outlined the substance of our discussion. We both agreed on Turkey that Turkey is a democratic country and Turks have exercised their democratic rights, and that the responsibility of choosing Turkey's leaders belongs to the Turks. Both Greece and the United States look forward to working with the new Turkish government.
As the Minister said, we had a chance also to discuss Cyprus, and we agreed that in the period between now and December 12th, the Copenhagen meeting of the EU, there might be some opportunities for Cyprus, for Greece, for Turkey.
I had a chance to reaffirm to the Minister that the US supports Cyprus' accession to the European Union because we believe that the accession process is an incentive as the Minister said for people to solve the problems that the time has come to be solved. I also reaffirmed to the Minister that we support the UN Secretary General's efforts on Cyprus, and also the very important decision that the EU took in Helsinki in 1999. I was also very interested in the Minister's views on the Balkans, and Greece's commitment and the US's commitment to doing the right thing there, paying attention to issues of regional security.
I also had a chance to report to the Minister on the intensive efforts that the United States is making, our President, our Secretary of State, to obtaining a UN Security Council resolution on Iraq.
As I reported to the Minister, our belief is that the best way to avoid a conflict with Iraq is to pass a strong Security Council resolution that has a new way of thinking about the inspections and the clear consequences if Iraq fails to comply. And the clearer we are at the Security Council, the more likely it is to avoid a conflict. And I began the meeting and I ended the meeting by expressing my government's thanks and my personal thanks to the Minister for all of Greece's efforts on the global war on terrorism. From the very early stage after September 11 when Greek pilots and Greek air crews were in NATO AWACS over the United States, to today when American and Greek personnel are serving together around the world, we are grateful for that
solidarity and that support.
Journalist's Question: Mr. Grossman, did you request something specific from Greece in terms of military means in view of the US military operation against Iraq.
U/S GROSSMAN: No, sir. As I said to the Minister, our object is to get a Security Council resolution passed so that there doesn't have to be conflict with Iraq, and so, I did not ask anything, either general or specific.