The Greek side is not dogmatic in its approach and has the flexibility needed for a good compromise but will not make concessions that lead to a bad, flawed compromise, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said on Friday, in an interview about the negotiations on the Cyprus issue.
“In the negotiations, to put it in very plain language, we are not at all ‘chicken’. We know how to defend the benefits of law, rights of people and rights of state, proceeding like this without backing down,” he said, talking to the Greek radio station ‘Alpha’.
The minister said he was satisfied with the progress in the talks so far: “For the first time, we changed the agenda in the negotiations on Cyprus, putting the core of the Cyprus issue back on the table. It is the first time we have entered into a negotiation so well prepared, having examined the international experience in all cases of conflict or the cases that are equivalent to Cyprus or aspects of the Cyprus issue.”
As a positive example, Kotzias referred to a major shift in Britain from a traditionally pro-Turkish stance to the current view that Turkey cannot “maintain western and interventionist rights”. He also stressed the importance of boosting Greece’s alliances “since there is no EU member-state that does not understand the correctness of our position, that an EU member-state cannot be under occupation or subject to rights of intervention by a third country.”
“We have shown the international political scene that something of this sort would lead to other states demanding rights to intervene in smaller states where there is a population that shares their own culture or speaks their own language,” he added.
It was vital to have a clear definition of the problem as one of occuption by Turkish troops and the need to abolish guarantees, the minister said. In this way, anyone that did not agree had to present their own definition of the problem, he said. In this context, he noted that Turkey was becoming increasingly “honest” in the talks and presenting the Cyprus problem as “satisfaction of their own geostrategic goals.”
Greece, he added, was not in the negotiations to solve Turkey’s geostrategic issues: “All the sides must compromise so that Cyprus embarks on the path of a truly sovereign and independent state.”
Commenting on the criticism directed at him, Kotzias the critics “were used to [the Greek side] being chickens and were put out when we weren’t.” According to Kotzias, they had been used to Greece accepting Turkey’s intervention in Cyprus whenever it wanted, “considering that rights of intervention in Cyprus were also the solution.”
He suggested that some of the less well-meaning critics “were trapped within international circles that finance them” and that they “distorted the facts, adopting any lie published by Turkey and from there by the international press, as reality.”
As an example, Kotzias cited the accusations that he had left early during the process in Geneva, which he said were later disproved by UN documents made public by the Greek journalist Michalis Ignatiou. In actual fact, he said, it was his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu that refused to stay for the second day of talks.
“He left first thing in the morning, we stayed on to continue exploring possibilities for a solution in Geneva, and he stated from Ankara that ‘Kotzias said he could not stay for the negotiation.’ It was ridiculous, because I was in Geneva when he said this and he was in Ankara. Some people took this argument, in Cyprus and Greece, along with a broad circulation newspaper in Brussels, and said that we did not stay for the negotiations,” he said.
Asked about the new U.S. President Donald Trump and his relations with the EU, Kotzias said he was not in favour of a “confrontational tone” and urged Europeans to think hard about what the EU wants from its relations with the U.S. He noted that Greek diplomacy was “in an open discussion” with Trump’s administration.
With respect to the refugee crisis, in particular, he said that the rights of the millions migrating must be protected. “We, as Greeks, have a right to talk about this but the Europeans that barred the Western Balkan corridor do not,” he added.