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Kotzias speaks on foreign policy and bilateral relations with Turkey

The efforts of Greek diplomacy as well as his assessments of key issues concerning Greek foreign policy were analyzed on Tuesday evening by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias in an lengthy interview with TV channel STAI.

Mr. Kotzias spoke among other things about Greek-Turkish relations in all their aspects, the issue of the two Greek military officers held by Turkey, the provocative behavior of Turkey and the danger of a "hot" incident in the Aegean, the EEZ and relations with neighboring countries.

His belief, he said, is that "in foreign policy you must take initiatives, you have to guide events" because "otherwise events prevent you and can drown you", you have to retort with "calmness and sobriety" and be guided "by the defense of national interests, the application of international law, the formation of appropriate alliances."

The two soldiers

On the issue of the two Greek soldiers Nikos Kotzias spoke of something "unprecedented" between two NATO armies fighting for same ideas, principles and values. He estimated that "this behavior shows Turkey's change of perception", while stressing that "They are not in a position to negotiate over them as some people may think." He underlined the great difference between the "eight" Turkish officers who came to Greece to seek asylum, and the two Greeks arrested by the Turks "against their will and that of the state they serve".

Concerning their return, the Foreign Minister pointed out that there is "a problem of legal culture" in Turkey, since, as he explained, "we have reached almost two months now and no charges have been brought. They may not have charges, but their law does not oblige them to do so. That is why I was very cautious from the outset and I did not express my views," he said.

He went on, however, with a statement that caused a sensation by implying that their arrest was partly due to their foolishness. After admitting that the two Greek soldiers, who were arrested in Kastanies in Evros, had passed into Turkish territory ("passed into by 20 meters," he said), then, on another point, he underlined: "Turkey never created an incident without having the possibility to invoke legitimacy or International Law, or say that "the soldiers violated the borders", or the coup in Cyprus, to rely on. I am not saying that it really means these things. So one has to give Turkey foolish opportunities to do that. "

Red lines

Asked about the incident with the flags on the rocky islands, N. Kotzias assured that "we have not seen any flags being taken down", nor did the Turkish authorities send evidence as they claimed. He expressed the view that "every Greek is entitled to exploit Greek lands, but he must simply always think of the continuation of this exploitation," explaining the importance of the responsibility that is equired in such acts: "these are actions that want to confirm on the one hand Hellenicity - and of course we support it - but on the other hand they are not done in a way that benefits the country. "

On the question of whether Turkey has violated Greek "red lines", the Foreign Minister said that "they came in one or two cases very close. They did not violate it ", citing as an example the "provocation that occurred in Imia with the eramming" of a Greek coast guard vessel. He underlined that "this ramming, if there was no calm and temperance from the Greek side, who knows where it could have led." In general, "in such incidents you either "go around bullying" and you continue, or you try to calm them down. And I mean both these incidents and verbal provocations. My own perception of foreign policy is that if I want toraise the stakes I have to have made a decision as to where and when I am going. If Turkey has decided to challenge, I do not necessarily have to answer to her challenges. That is, I do not think it is wise - when Turkey is in pre-election campaigning - I don't have to answer every day as if I take them seriously. "

Mr. Kotzias also explained why he chooses not to respond to what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan provocatively said about the destruction of Smyrna: "I read an Erdogan who has big problems in his election campaign, he is faced with Smyrna that has voted against him in municipal elections, in parliamentary elections, in presidential elections. He overwhelmingly missed the Constitutional Revolution and went to this Smyrna to make his first pre-election speech trying to recover the big cities."

The Foreign Minister, referring to talks on the delimitation of maritime zones with neighboring countries, stressed that "the ministry is doing a very important job that will be seen in a few weeks, concerning all issues related to the Law of the Sea": " issues of territorial seas, EEZ issues ", recalling that "the EEZ is not sovereignty"," the country has a sovereignty over its territorial sea ". In particular, for the EEZ, talks have been ongoing "with three countries at the moment": Egypt, Albania and Italy. With regard to Albania, he expressed the hope that an agreement will be reached by early June and added that the Foreign Ministry's goal is to then reach an agreement with Italy.

Asked about Turkey on the same issue, N. Kotzias referred to two channels of talks that have not been used in the last one and a half years, and in particular to the exploratory discussions on the implementation of the International Law on the Continental Shelf in the Aegean. "I think we will talk again about these issues," he said, stressing the importance of "our relations being based on sobriety and a discussion of international law, rather than a tension without deiscussion." "If you have a tension without discussion, you never know whether an" accident "will occur" or "if a response to this "accident" does not lead to a" hot" incident," he said. He stressed that "our own policy is to defend national interests, to exploit International Law, to shape appropriate alliances and to "rationalize "Turkey", noting that "it has acquired aggression from the fact that it is an emerging force in the Muslim world has an arrogance after breaking a tough military coup, entering Iraq and Syria, and sometimes loses all measure. "