United Nations.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Photo: Dimitrios Panagos
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias concluded his week-long visit to the United States, expressing satisfaction about the outcome of his meeting both in Washington and New York. He stated that it was “more creative and productive exceeding our expectations, based on earlier experiences.”
Nikos Kotzias made the statement at the United Nations headquarters on Friday, following his meeting with Secretary General Ban-KI-moon.
“I have the feeling – also from talks I had with organisations in New York which I will continue until late evening and from the meeting we had with American-Jewish organisations here in New York – that while the atmosphere when we first arrived in Washington was generally strange, here they are positive about Greece and have received our messages they way we would have liked them to,” Kotzias said.
In Washington DC Foreign Minister Kotzias held meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Suzan Rice and members of Congress.
“I believe that the right atmosphere of trust has been formed and apropos of that, we have had proposals from several sides for help in growing our economy and for conveying our views to international organisations like the IMF and the United Nations”, he added.
Echoing the displeasure of the administration for a new law passed by the Greek Parliament, allowing handicapped prisoners to serve the remaining of their sentence at home, Secretary Kerry said “we’re very concerned that those who have committed acts of terrorism who’ve been incarcerated need to remain incarcerated.”.
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Kotzias reassured Kerry that “the new law in Greece about the prisoners will not let any terrorists become free. It will be not only a change of the way of their detention. Nobody will be set free.”.
Kerry also raised the issue of the agreements signed in Moscow between Prime Minister Tsipras and Russian President Putin, for a pipeline transporting gas through Turkey and Bulgaria. He also warned about the importance of keeping a strong transatlantic front on the sanctions to Russia.
“We have an ability to be able to maintain the strong U.S.-European partnership with respect to our support for Ukraine, the need to be able to encourage Russia in every way possible to live up to the Minsk agreement and to help bring about peace in the region, and also to work together on longer-term challenges like energy, energy supplies, and diversification for the region”, Kerry said.
MEETING WITH BAN
According to a statement attributable to the Secretary General`s spokesperson, Ban and Kotzias discussed the state of play in the talks for a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus. Moreover they exchanged views on the “name” dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. They also discussed the various ways to ensure protection of migrants and refugees who are making the journey across the Mediterranean Sea and exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East.
“If Turkey wants a settlement of the Cyprus problem in 2015, then it must withdraw its troops from this country”, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said following a meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
In statements after the meeting, Kotzias said that “we discussed the progress or non-progress and the hope for a Cyprus settlement, the negotiations that will resume.”
As he noted, he reiterated to the Secretary General his position that the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee must be abolished and Turkish occupation troops must withdraw from Cyprus.
He said that fundamental positions as regards the resolution of the domestic aspects of the problem is an issue for Nicosia to decide and “I underlined that as a guarantor power we want us and Turkey to withdraw from Cyprus.”
Kotzias stressed that if this does not happen, there can be no substantive settlement that will restore the Republic of Cyprus as a sovereign state with all the rights that each EU member state has.
“If this does not happen there will be no solution, it will be an illusion of a settlement,” he noted, adding that “as a guarantor power we want our rights and those of the others (Turkey and Britain), deriving from past treaties to be terminated.”
The Greek Foreign Minister said that the Secretary General took account of what he told him.
Invited to comment on statements by the Turkish Foreign Minister and by Turkish Prime Minister on a Cyprus solution, Kotzias said that “if the Turks want a settlement very soon, all they have to do is leave the island very soon.”
He also noted that he will visit Turkey in May to attend the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting and that he will also hold bilateral discussions with Turkish officials.
Earlier on Friday he met the Secretary General’s Special Envoy Matthew Nimetz, with whom they talked about the course of the negotiations on the FYROM name issue.
“I briefed him on the talks we had regarding confidence-building measures. As you know, a month ago, in Riga, I saw the Foreign Minister of FYROM, and I proposed that we move ahead to confidence-building measures. There was no immediate response. In the end, the government of our neighbouring country agreed to such a discussion. In Budapest, where I was two weeks ago, we exchanged lists of points for confidence-building measures, and there is, as we have seen over the past ten days, a coincidence of views on some points that might serve as a point of departure for such a dialogue. I also informed Mr. Nimetz that we want the dialogue to continue and we want him to bear in mind the fact that behind the name issue their lurks a specific kind of irredentism that makes it difficult to restore the relations we want to have, which are relations of trust.”
With Ban Ki-moon they have also discussed the problem of the migratory waves coming from North Africa and the Middle East.
“We ascertained that it is an issue that our government, the Greek government, raised from the moment it took office. You should know how much of a misunderstanding arose from the fact that I highlighted to the whole of Europe the risk of such a migratory wave coming about, and in fact there were those who tried to say that I said I would send these waves. I was carrying out a political analysis that, unfortunately, was borne out.”
Kotzias suggested to the Secretary-General for the UN to support the European Union with the expertise and the means at its disposal for combating these phenomena that we have seen in recent days.
Finaly, he has explained to him the initiative by the Greek government for the protection of Christian communities and, more generally, the multi-ethnicity and multi-religiosity in the Middle East, “as an matter not just of the protection of human lives, but also of protection of the values that have been nurtured for two thousand years now in the region. And I set out certain specific proposals for utilizing capable Greeks – academics and others – and that proposal was accepted supportively. And I must say I am satisfied on that count.”
Kotzias also met Stanley Bergman and David Harris, president and executive director of the American Jewish Committee, respectively, Archbishop Demetrios of America and the leadership of PSEKA and HALC.
He has also attended a roundtable discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations, on the priorities of Greek foreign policy. He concluded his visit to the U.S. attending a reception at the General Consulate of Greece, with members of the Greek-American community.