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Venizelos briefs press on Ukraine and Brussels trip

Government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday referred to the results of his visit to Ukraine, the EU Foreign Ministers' Council on the issue of Ukraine, the Cyprus issue and the terrorist attacks in China.

In a press conference, Mr Venizelos referred to the meeting he had with representatives of the Federation of Greek Community Associations of Ukraine, clarifying that a recent law restricting the use of minority languages has not yet been ratified and does not apply to Greek, which is used chiefly in education and not in administration. A letter was presented to Mr Venizelos, as the chair of the Council of Ministers, by the interim government of Ukraine, requesting a resumption of the process for the signing of the EU-Ukraine association agreement.

He also referred to the high-level of bilateral relations between Greece and Ukraine, underlining the need to respect international principles, territorial integrity and existing borders. He said that Athens has open channels of communication with Russia adding that dialogue is necessary.

Mr Venizelos said that Greece and other countries are in favor of setting up a special OSCE committee on the events in Crimea and Ukraine, as well as, a crisis “contact group”, underlining that everything possible should be done to prevent the “cold war” from being repeated. An extraordinary EU Summit meeting will be held on Thursday that will be attended by new Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk.

The foreign minister said that the Ukrainian government was selected by the country's Parliament and has been recognized by the EU, UN and most governments, noting that Yatseniuk would have been the prime minister either way, even if the agreement of the three foreign ministers was implemented, adding that the only difference would be that it would have taken more time.

We want a visa-waiver or easy visa issuance for Russians,” and continuation of dialogue, he said when asked on the likelihood of such sanctions being imposed on Russia, which could affect Greek interests, noting that if imposed these would cut both ways.

Mr Venizelos lashed out at the opposition parties in Greece, referring to comments made on the fate of the Greek community in Ukraine and accused them of irresponsibility and populism that hurts Greek interests.

Referring to the Cyprus issue, he said that the contacts of the Greek government with the Turkish Cypriot negotiator do not constitute recognition of the occupation and the pseudostate, noting that they serve the initiatives of the Greek Cypriot side. “We will never participate in a quadripartite negotiation,” he underlined.

Venizelos also condemned the terrorist attacks in China. He issued a statement in which he said: The Hellenic Presidency expresses its abhorrence and condemns in the fullest and most categorical manner the terrorist attack in the city of Kunming, China,” he underlined, adding “we express our profound grief for the dead and wounded, our condolences to the families of the dead, and our sympathy for the wounded, with wishes for a speedy recovery”.