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Monday, 13 October 2014

Statements of Deputy PM and FM Venizelos and the FM of the Republic of Cyprus, Ioannis Kasoulides, following their meeting (Athens, 13 October 2014)

Hellenic MFA, Monday, 13 October 2014:

E. VENIZELOS: It is a great pleasure to welcome to Athens, to the Foreign Ministry, my dear old friend and colleague Ioannis Kasoulides, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus.

With Mr. Kasoulides we had the opportunity for a one-on-one meeting, followed by a meeting of the delegations under our direction. Thus, in two different phases we discussed in detailed depth the situation that has taken shape in Cyprus following the Turkish initiative, in violation of international law, of the declaration, through a NAVTEX, of the carrying out of exploration in maritime zones of the Republic of Cyprus, in a region in which the Republic of Cyprus exercises its national sovereign rights; that is, in a region of the Cypriot exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

In such a fraught international state of affairs, when global public opinion and the international community have focused their attention on barbaric conduct, when public opinion is anxiously following the developments in Kobani, on the border of Syria and Turkey.

At a time when we have an unprecedented confluence of crises in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in the European Union’s Eastern Neighbourhood, the situation should in no way be further burdened with actions that violate international law and undermine the course of the talks on a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue.

The opposite should be the case: We are all under obligation to help these talks within the framework we have said, which is the framework that has been formulated by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the High-Level Agreements of 1977 and 1979, the Joint Communiqué of 11 February 2014, and, naturally, the European community acquis.

But instead, we unfortunately see conduct that is moving in exactly the opposite direction.

Mr. Kasoulides briefed us on the initiatives the Republic of Cyprus has undertaken, but, as you know, the Greek government has also taken a number of initiatives, diplomatic contacts, demarches, and we have made a relevant demarche to the Turkish side. The recent developments on this issue are the meetings I had the opportunity to have yesterday, in Cairo, on the margins of the International Conference on Palestine and, more specifically, the reconstruction of Gaza. I had the opportunity to brief many of my colleagues and other international officials on this matter. I had the opportunity to talk with the UN Secretary General, the U.S. Secretary of State, and with other Ministers.

There is no question that the core of the problem we are facing is, unfortunately, always the same. It is Turkey’s refusal to recognize the Republic of Cyprus. To accept the simple and obvious truth that the Republic of Cyprus is a member state of the UN, a member state of the European Union and the Eurozone. A sovereign state that exercises not only sovereign rights over its territory, but also the national sovereign rights recognized in accordance with international law and, more specifically, in accordance with the International Law of the Sea.

A number of problems can be traced back to this source. The refusal to implement the Ankara Protocol and all of the complications that arise in the relations between Turkey and the European Union, and, allow me to say, the European Union and NATO, at a time when and in a region where there should be full coordination and harmonization between the two organizations.

We also agreed with Mr. Kasoulides to proceed to a number of actions that are self-evident between the two neighbouring and brother states that are actors in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean and that are member states of the European Union.

The first move was the one that was carried out a few minutes ago, before us. The signing by the Hellenic Republic and the Republic of Cyprus of the inter-state agreement on Search and Rescue for maritime accidents in the region linking the two states.

Within the framework of the relevant Hamburg Convention, we were under obligation to delimit the search and rescue regions, using as the criterion the maritime space that corresponds to the Athens and Nicosia FIRs.

Thus, in reality, the two FIRs are being joined, along with the maritime spaces that correspond to them. This is a move of very great importance for Search and Rescue issues, of course, in accordance with international law, in accordance with international practice and European practice, along the lines of corresponding bilateral contracts Greece has signed for many years now with Italy, with Malta. But you can see the great importance of the fact that this is happening now between Greece and Cyprus.

It is a show of full respect for international law, as well as full capitalization on the mechanisms provided for by international law and, more specifically, the Hamburg Convention, in combination with the Chicago Convention on search and rescue. The one convention covers maritime accidents, and the other airline accidents, and for the second one, in any case, there have long been detailed arrangements.

We also decided, within the framework of the initiatives developed by the two Presidencies of the Council of the EU – the Cypriot Presidency and, more recently, the Hellenic Presidency in the first half of this year – to put particular emphasis on our collaboration on maritime policy issues. Maritime policy is a European priority, it is a priority particularly in the Mediterranean European countries, it is a priority for Greece and for Cyprus, as is cooperation in the energy sector, especially now that the Ukraine crisis has shown that it is of very great importance to constantly work for diversification of the supply sources and transit routes of natural gas and oil.

So we decided to organize an institutionally structured, permanent cooperation between the two countries in the sectors of energy and maritime policy.

Another issue we looked at following the meeting we had in New York, with our Egyptian colleague, and following everything I had the opportunity to talk about with my Egyptian colleague yesterday, in Cairo, on the margins of the International Conference, is the progress of the Egypt-Cyprus-Greece trilateral cooperation configuration.

Now, in a few days, in Nicosia, we will have the 3rd Trilateral Ministerial Meeting, on the level of Foreign Ministers. But this time, within the framework of the joint communiqué of New York, which you are aware of, we will decide to carry out, at the soonest possible time, in all probability on 9 November, in Cairo, the 1st Trilateral Summit Meeting, with the participation of the President of Egypt, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, and Greece’s Prime Minister.

We three Ministers will prepare this meeting, which, as you can see, is of very great importance, not as a hostile move towards anyone else, and particularly towards countries of the region, but as a move of substantial deepening of our cooperation, because Egypt plays a pivotal role in all the major crises, its role in the Gaza ceasefire, as well as in the reopening of the of the Middle East peace talks.

It is also of very great importance that the joint basis of this cooperation is respect for international law, and particularly respect for international law in the critical region of the Eastern Mediterranean.

With Mr. Kasoulides – with whom I am linked by a very close friendship of over 25 years, because we started out together as government spokespersons many years ago, and we continue now, always with the same mutual understanding, camaraderie and love and mutual appreciation – we had the opportunity to carry out a broader review of the issues of common interest, not just related to the Cyprus issue, not just concerning Greek-Turkish relations, but also concerning the course of the European Union, regarding the major concerns of European policy, which have to do with foreign and security policy, as well as with economic issues.

Because the economy, too, as a parameter of national power, is always very important for everything we do in the field of foreign policy and security and defence policy.

With these thoughts, Mr. Minister and dear friend, I welcome you to Greece, to Athens, and ask you to take the floor.

I. KASOULIDES: Ladies and gentlemen, I warmly thank my true friend, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, because truly, as he has already said, our meeting here was imperative and proved productive, and I can return to Cyprus with the sense that Greece will stand by Cyprus in this ordeal as well, with all of the abilities at its disposal.

Truly, Turkey’s decision to dispute the Cypriot EEZ and the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to explore for and subsequently exploit the natural gas has consequences. The first consequence, as you can surely see, is the fact that in a bi-communal dialogue, which, in accordance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council, is being carried out on equal terms, the “equal footing” has been grossly compromised, because this dialogue cannot be carried out under conditions of threats, intimidation and show of force.

And, in fact, this is happening at the time when the UN Secretary General’s new special adviser, Mr. Eide, is scheduling his entry into these talks at a stage that would have been the time for both sides to show that they really mean to and want to move ahead with these talks substantially, without evasions and without procedural obstacles.

Unfortunately, this is being rendered doubtful by the Turkish move, because the critical months are the coming months, followed by the elections of the illegal and legal organs of the Turkish side, but it leads to the next consequence.

Because a very serious question is raised: Was this move made at this particular moment in time because Turkey is not interested in a solution, but is also likely relegating the efforts towards a solution to a back burner and focusing instead on these moves of intimidation.

And this raised the question: Why this move at this particular time? Is it perhaps because it has a certain kind of protection, because everyone wants to see Turkey join the coalition against the terrorist organization ISIS?

And, in fact, if we bear in mind what it is asking for in exchange, which I am not sure will be accepted by the Arab world, and knowing that whatever Turkey thinks, it will be difficult to get out – examples are well known – we feel that the international community has not, to date, shown the strictness it should with regard to Turkey. I know, however, that efforts are being made behind the scenes, and I hope that these behind-the-scenes efforts and the diplomatic exertions will have a positive outcome. We shall see.

For the rest, I subscribe to everything Mr. Venizelos has said regarding the great importance for Cyprus and for Hellenism of the signing of the Agreement that just took place, the dialogue, as structured dialogue between Greece and Cyprus on issues of energy and maritime policy, and they are timely issues, while in tandem we are also looking at other ways of reacting that, however, might also correspond to the escalation of provocations from the other side.

Thank you.

JOURNALIST: My question is for both Foreign Ministers. Are you concerned at the fact that the presence of Turkish naval vessels in the Cypriot EEZ might discourage companies that are interested in carrying out exploration and drilling in the region? And what do you intend to do to avert this eventuality? That is the first question. And a question for Mr. Venizelos: At what stage are the EEZ talks with Egypt? Thank you very much.

I. KASOULIDES: First of all, I can give full assurances that the Italian company ENI, in accordance with its contractual obligations to the Republic of Cyprus, will move ahead smoothly with the schedule of drilling that it has announced. And there will be no backing down from this on its part. That is what we have before us currently. Right now, there is no tender for granting other maritime fields to other companies, so that your question might be answered.

E. VENIZELOS: And I would like to add, regarding Egypt, that, apart from the trilateral cooperation, the Greek-Egyptian bilateral cooperation is also continuing at an intensive pace, and we agreed in New York to hold – as soon as possible, here in Athens this time – the meeting of technical committees dealing with matters of delimitation of maritime zones in the Eastern Mediterranean. And we have no pending matter whatsoever with Egypt on the bilateral level from this point of view. But we are interested in full respect for and full implementation of the International Law of the Sea in our region, which is a common region.

JOURNALIST: I wanted to ask whether you are planning joint initiatives with Israel, in response to the Turkish provocations.

I. KASOULIDES: With Israel we have a special cooperation based on a specific programme. They aren’t carried out because there are or aren’t Turkish provocations. This programming and cooperation will proceed smoothly.

JOURNALIST: Mr. Kasoulides, as you talked about intimidation from the Turkish side, I want to ask under what conditions Nicosia will return to the talks, the meeting between the leaders of the two communities will take place. In other works, what move on the part of Ankara would allow the Cypriot side to change its decision?

I. KASOULIDES: As I said, a negotiation cannot currently be held on an equal footing, as are the terms of the Secretary General’s mandate from the Security Council, and this dialogue will continue when the threats, show of force and intimidation stop.

E. VENIZELOS: Allow me to add something at this point: that it is worth studying the announcements that have been issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the Greek Foreign Ministry and, naturally, the Cypriot Foreign Ministry regarding this issue. The Turkish side is accusing the Republic of Cyprus, which it perceives as the Greek Cypriot community, of exercising the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus in maritime zones.

And it is leveling allegations at Greece for not participating more actively in the talks. The truth is that the problem here is with the Turkish stance, which does not recognize the existence of the Republic of Cyprus, does not see that the Republic of Cyprus, as a sovereign member state of the UN and the EU, with sovereignty and sovereign rights, is one thing, and that the two communities, which are discussing the future solution of the Cyprus issue, are another. And the obvious also has to be realized: That progress on the Cyprus issue hinges on its, on Turkey’s, stance, because the Cyprus issue is a problem of illegal invasion, occupation and illegal settlement.

Greece does not have such responsibilities or such a role. Greece respects the Republic of Cyprus and the internal democratic processes on the Greek Cypriot side. The problems are on the side of the pseudo-state, on the side of the Turkish Cypriot community, and on the Turkish side.

I. KASOULIDES: I would like to add something, if I may. Turkey is the only member state of the United Nations that does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus as the legal government of Cyprus, on the one hand, and that recognizes the illegally declared pseudo-state. There are laws and justice in the international community. The law of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and Turkey is the only country that circumvents and tries to ignore all of this. Turkey has to see that it cannot impose international laws and rules on its own to impose them by force of guns where it is in its interest to do so. This is an irrational rationale.

JOURNALIST: I start from the complaint of the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Kasoulides, regarding the sluggish reaction, so far, of the international community to the Turkish provocations.

And I ask, first of all, you, Mr. Foreign Minister of Greece, in the meetings you said you had in Egypt, in Cairo, yesterday, where you raised this issue with Mr. Kerry and Mr. Ki-moon, did they react? Did they comment, or did they just passively accept what you said? And by extension, in the expanded talks you had a short while ago, here in Athens, you agreed, if I am not mistaken, to approach the organs of the European Union at the highest level, so as to involve the European Union, as well, in the process of the talks, if only as an observer exerting certain pressures.

Apart from a reaction from Mr. Van Rompuy the day before yesterday, if I am not mistaken, I don’t remember, to date, a high-level reaction from the European Union, again on the issue of the Turkish operations in Cyprus.

I. KASOULIDES: I will respond to the second question by saying that Mr. Rompuy, I remind you, is the President of the Council of the European Union. That is, the President of an organ in which the 28 member states participate, and he has made very satisfactory statements that I think render superfluous the statements of some outgoing Commissioners who, despite everything that has happened, have set as their goal how to move Turkey’s EU accession course ahead. And that is also why we do not bear in mind what has happened elsewhere.

E. VENIZELOS: The reactions of the international community must always move within the framework of international law and the special role of each international organ or other international entity. From this perspective, the UN Secretary General’s position is very clear. The UN Secretary General is the guardian of international legality, and, in particular with regard to the Cyprus issue, he wants to see the completion and success of the talks being carried out under his auspices, with the active participation of his Special Adviser.

The European Union’s reaction is the one Mr. Kasoulides described. We have the statement from the President of the European Council, and the issue can obviously be brought up for discussion at any time before the Council of Foreign Ministers and on the level of the European Council.

Mr. Kerry obviously referred to the statements that have been made by the State Department spokesperson, and he is interested, as he has stressed repeatedly, in there being a positive development on the Cyprus issue, and he is obviously mainly interested in a rift not being created in the united front that exists with regard to confronting the major problems of the wider region: the need for the Middle East peace talks to start up again, for the ISIS phenomenon to be confronted, for new fronts not to open up.

From this point of view, the international community, regardless of what is being said, and how, must do, knows what it wants to do, and in the end I am sure that it will make substantial efforts to avert the creation of some new problem regarding the Cyprus issue; to keep the Turkish NAVTEX from continuing to burden the situation.

Now, beyond that, the enlargement process, and, in this context, Turkey’s European course, is always an intergovernmental process. The organ that controls this process is the General Affairs Council and the European Council. This is of very great significance. Turkey knows that it is not facilitating its European course and perspective through such moves.

JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, you both described the situation prevailing in Cyprus following provocative actions and moves on the part of Turkey, and, naturally, your concern is quite clear. Can you send a message today from Athens and Nicosia to Ankara?

I. KASOULIDES: Everything you have heard today is a message to Ankara, certainly; our reaction and our statements and actions that have been or will be made.

E. VENIZELOS: Needless to say, beyond the public statements there are the diplomatic and political initiatives. Greece is talking to the Turkish government on all levels, and on all levels we have stated the positions we need to state to the Turkish side, and we are awaiting a response.

JOURNALIST: Basically, two very brief questions, based on two things that each of you said. For Mr. Venizelos, you said that some move may follow, possibly on the level of the European Council. Did you discuss any such moves? Could you perhaps tell us a little more on that? And for Mr. Kasoulides. You referred to the quid pro quos Turkey is pursuing within the framework of the talks on strengthening the front against ISIS. Are you afraid that more favorable treatment in the context of the Cyprus issue might be among the inducements it is seeking? Thank you.

E. VENIZELOS: Regarding the procedures of the Council of Ministers and the European Council, things are very clear. Next Monday, on 21 October, there is a scheduled Foreign Affairs Council. The main subject is the ongoing crisis in the Southern and Eastern Neighbourhoods of the European Union. When we talk about the Southern Neighbourhood, about the situation that exists with regard to the Middle East, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, won’t we talk about the situation in Cyprus? Cyprus is the European Union’s and the West’s most forward outpost in the region. Moreover, in December the General Affairs Council always discusses the Commission report and formulates its own intergovernmental conclusions regarding the accession perspectives of the candidate states. Won’t we do that this coming December? Obviously, we will.

I. KASOULIDES: And depending on developments, it is President Anastasiades’ intention – and he has already sent a relevant request to president Van Rompuy – for the issue to be added to the upcoming European Council for discussion. 

  • You asked about ISIS. I know that countries – many, many countries – are well aware of the truth of Turkey’s role in backing and creating this monstrous organization. Because it is well known that it backed it economically and through the provision of arms, beyond the fact that they looked the other way on the porous border between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, over which all these aspiring terrorists passed with passports from EU member states and even from the United States.

  • This is what has been said. Everyone says it – even the U.S. Vice President himself, at Harvard, did nothing but tell the truth, and I think everyone knows it. I think that the time has passed when one could, for any expediency, grant inducements for anyone without our consent, and all the more so when we are well aware of the moral backdrop and share of responsibility Turkey has for the whole situation that has taken shape in the Iraqi and Syrian space.

E. VENIZELOS: I would like to take the opportunity to make a comment that also concerns Greece’s domestic political life. I hope now after a few days that it will become clear how correct and critical the Greek government’s decision was for Greece to participate in the international coalition against ISIS. The Republic of Cyprus did the same. And, moreover, how important it is for Greece, as it is for Cyprus, to participate in the sending of munitions to the Kurdish forces, always through legal processes, so that the ISIS phenomenon can be confronted.

You can see that we need to send very clear messages if we want to participate in the international configurations and if we don’t want the regional and international crises to have a detrimental effect on our national issues, such as the Cyprus issue, such as Greek-Turkish relations and the more general situation in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. I say this because there are those who were against Greece’s participation in the coalition and our sending munitions, and they are now protesting because we have not taken more intensive and practical initiatives aimed at saving Kobani from the ISIS attack. That is, there is unfortunately often no logic and no coherence in what we hear.

I. KASOULIDES: Let me add how important Cyprus is in the struggle of the coalition against ISIS, as the Republic of Cyprus supports Britain’s efforts through the British bases at Akrotiri and through the provision of facilitations to the French air force for the same purpose.

JOURNALIST: You state that the wealth of natural resources belongs to both Communities. What is your plan in case there is no immediate resolution of the Cyprus issue? Thank you.

I. KASOULIDES: We have said repeatedly, and I take the opportunity of your question to repeat it today, that the natural wealth, including hydrocarbons, belongs to all Cypriots and will be allocated correspondingly when the Cyprus problem is resolved. Revenue from the natural gas is not foreseen before the end of the decade. What is the point of these Turkish threats at the present time? Who is it that does not believe that the Cyprus problem will have been resolved by then or will not have been resolved by then? Does Turkey have so much faith in the dialogue for the resolution of the Cyprus issue, when it wants things to be resolved as of now, when the revenues are not expected to come in until the end of the decade?

E. VENIZELOS: Thank you very much.


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