Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis on Wednesday categorically denied that Greece had ever discussed the status of Aegean islands with Turkey or that the two sides were close to signing an agreement, stressing that the exploratory contacts focused exclusively on the continental shelf issue.
Briefing Parliament's Standing Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs concerning on his positions and the strategy he intends to adopt as Greece's foreign minister, Lambrinidis sent strong messages to Turkey, fYRoM and Albania.
He repeatedly spoke about the need for consensus, stressing that Greek diplomats and Greeks living abroad should work together to change Greece’s undeserved image into the image of a country that is dynamic, coordinated and has a long-term plan. To this end, the prime minister on Thursday is scheduled to address a conference held with the participation of all Greek diplomats.
“We are engaged in exploratory contacts with Turkey on the continental shelf issue. There are no negotiations on the status of the Aegean islands or any contract, not even on a theoretical level. The exploratory contacts continue, they are in progress but nothing of what is rumored is true. There will be an immediate briefing as soon as we are close to an agreement,” Lambrinidis said, adding that “we proceed with self-confidence. We are not afraid. Normalization is beneficial to both countries. Turkey’s attitude has not changed. The exploratory contacts continue at an intense pace. There is still a lot that needs to be done.”
As regards Turkey’s stance on the Cyprus issue, Lambrinidis stressed that “Turkey holds the key to a solution. The Turkish occupation forces should leave the island immediately, definitively and forever. The Turkish prime minister’s statements are in conflict with UN decisions and undermine the efforts. Turkey should be aware that when it knocks on the door of Europe it is clear to everybody that it should become more European.”
“The Cyprus issue is at the top of the Greek government’s agenda,” he said, adding that it supports all efforts for the island’s reunification in accordance with the UN decisions and the European acquis. The solution to the Cyprus issue should be decided by the Cypriots for the Cypriots.”
The foreign minister referred to the issue of Halki, stressing that based on the discussions he had with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew it appears that certain encouraging steps have been made on behalf of Turkey. He added that he does not regard them as being enough but, nonetheless, they show a change of attitude and disposition and that is positive.
Referring to fYRoM, Lambrinidis stated that “Prime Minister-designate Nikola Gruevski is trapped in his own intransigence, keeping hostage his country’s European future. He should realise that the time has come to write history for his country and not to rewrite our own. This is a unanimous call by all countries. We want a solution with a geographic qualifier for all uses. Greece is determined to move on but we see no positive signs at this point. We hope that our neighbours will change attitude.”
As regards Albania, he said that it “knows very well that the violation of its obligations affects its European prospect and interests. The rise of nationalism in the neighbouring country creates reasonable concerns. The state the ethnic Greek minority serves as a barometer for our relations and this has been made very clear”.
Lambrinidis rejected press reports attributing the postponement of his visit to Russia to bad bilateral relations, stressing that in a telephone communication with his Russian counterpart they reaffirmed that the contacts of the two countries will proceed intensively and constructively to create a new strategic relation.
“The Russians are interested in the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline and are aware that the problems that have arisen do not come from us but from Bulgaria that has raised a number of obstacles,” he added.
On the Balkan region, he stated that the 2014 Agenda has set the ambitious and feasible goal to reach an agreement on a “road map” for the Balkan states’ EU accession.
The foreign minister also praised the personality of Manolis Glezos -- a WWII resistance hero and chairman of the National Council for the Claiming of German Debts, who had briefed earlier the parliamentary committee on the progress made -- and stressed that the Greek government will support his efforts.