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Venizelos Addresses 69th United Nations General Assembly

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Greek Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Evangelos Venizelos addressed the Plenary of the 69th United Nations General Assembly session.

His speech in full can be read below.

Mr. President,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today's 69th General Assembly of the United Nations is being held in a global environment rife with critical challenges that are putting the existing international system to the test.

Greece remains fully dedicated to the goals of the United Nations Organization, the universal ideals of which have never ceased to inspire us. I take this opportunity to underscore that my country is fully in line with the EU positions that the President of the European Council set out in his speech.

We reiterate our support for the efforts to reform the UN, including the Security Council, so that the Organization can better adapt to the constant shifts of our time and strengthen its operational nature and effectiveness in the exercising of preventive diplomacy.

On a global level, climate change is without question among the major challenges and is an absolute priority. It is vital to achieve a global and legally binding agreement for everyone. The transition to a low carbon-emission, green economic model must be accelerated. Greece believes that the Climate Summit held this week offers a unique opportunity to intensify efforts to achieve such a global agreement. The Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the EU, during the first half of 2014, focused its actions on highlighting the importance of sustainable growth and, within the framework of the EU's Ministerial Conference with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific – this past July, in Nairobi – an important Joint Declaration was adopted.

The Ebola epidemic has become a real threat to world peace and security, with serious social repercussions. It is imperative that there be an international strategy to bring the virus under control and avert an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that could bring about the collapse of healthcare systems and the social fabric in the states that have been hit. We thus welcome the Secretary General's decision to create a new mission (UNMEER), and I assure you that Greece commits to providing its full support to every initiative undertaken to fight the epidemic.

Today's complex challenges in the security sector require that we join forces on both the international and regional levels. Greece supports the strengthening of cooperation between the EU and the UN in the sector of crisis management, through the implementation of the action plan for the peacekeeping operations of the United Nations.

Mr. President,

The world is facing a number of unprecedented crises in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in the European Union's Eastern Neighbourhood. It is entirely clear that, in the face of these conditions of multiple crises, we need a coherent and comprehensive strategy. From this point of view, the role of the United Nations, and of the Security Council in particular, is, of course, decisive. Only in this way can we confront the critical dilemmas facing us, including the dilemma between democracy and security. But, of course, prerequisites for democracy include the existence of a functional state that is not crumbling, as well as the minimum necessary conditions of security.

The Ukrainian crisis seriously impacts security and stability in Europe. We are concerned at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, and we support the country's territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty. We support the 5 September Minsk agreement, the full implementation of which can contribute to the resolution of this crisis through diplomatic and political means. The key is the achievement of an inclusive solution.

Regarding security concerns in our neighbourhood, we welcome the adoption, in Egypt, of the 26 August Israeli-Palestinian Ceasefire Agreement, which we hope paves the way to re-launching the political process aimed at durable peace, which is obviously a prerequisite for a comprehensive solution allowing two states, Israel and Palestine, to coexist in security.

The UN Secretary General's newly appointed Representative for Syria must continue efforts to ensure the effective re-launching of the Geneva II political process. This is all the more imperative given the barbaric actions of ISIS and other jihadist groups in Syria and the Iraqi-Syrian border regions. Foreign fighters' joining jihadist terrorist organizations is a serious threat to regional and global security. As a member of the international alliance against ISIS and extremist jihadists, Greece fully supports the new Security Council resolution on how we, the international community, must act against ISIS and potential foreign fighters.

In this respect, I wish to make special reference to the grave humanitarian situation and increasing refugee pressure on countries of the region, including Greece.

Military means alone cannot eliminate the jihadist threat. We must also promote an inclusive process of national dialogue in Iraq and reconciliation to counter this threat to the country's national unity and territorial integrity.

We remain seriously concerned at the displacement of civilians, and we strongly condemn the systematic persecution of Christians and other religious communities.

The region's stability is also under threat from the ongoing violence in Libya. We strongly support the UN's coordination of relevant international efforts. Thus, we welcome the appointment of the UN Secretary General's new Special Representative.

Mr. President,

Deeply concerned at the life-threatening conditions journalists are increasingly confronting and the censorship and persecution faced by the media, Greece co-sponsored last year's Resolution on the "Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity." And we are now co-sponsoring this year's Resolution on the protection of journalists.

Mr. President,

During its European Presidency in the first half of 2014, Greece emphasized Western Balkan integration into the EU. This objective requires implementation of internal reforms in accordance with EU standards, and promotion of good neighborly relations through regional cooperation, reconciliation, and effective confrontation of the sources of nationalism.

We welcome the significant progress so far in the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina talks. We hope the two sides continue their constructive discussions in a spirit of compromise.

On the name issue of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece fully respects the process directed by the UN Secretary General, through his Personal Envoy Mr. Matthew Nimetz, and always participates constructively and with good will. Greece has already taken very considerable steps to date. We are awaiting corresponding steps from the other side. We propose a mutually acceptable compound name [with a geographical qualifier before the word 'Macedonia'] for all uses and purposes - erga omnes.

Greece supports the European and Euroatlantic perspective of this neighboring country and has long been among the top foreign direct investors there. Its European and Euroatlantic perspective hinges not on the name or on Greece, but on respect for the general criteria in place for all accession-candidate countries. It hinges on issues of democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights, harmonious inter-ethnic relations and freedom of the press. As the relevant European Council conclusions say, "tangible steps" need to be taken on these issues.

This past summer marked the 40th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, with the international community still confronting the ongoing illegal military occupation of the territory of a UN and EU member state. Greece fully supports the dialogue between the leaders of the two communities, within the framework of the February 2014 joint communiqué, and President Anastasiades' initiatives for confidence-building measures that can create new momentum on the island.

A just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem must be in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the high-level agreements (1977 and 1979), the February 2014 joint communiqué, and the European acquis. The Cypriot people must express their agreement to such a solution through referendum. We also attach great importance to maintaining the UNFICYP's mandate, level and concept, and to the UN Secretary General's Good Offices Mission. And we welcome Mr. Eide's appointment as his new Special Advisor for Cyprus.

A just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue and respect for international law – particularly the International Law of the Sea – are two critical factors on which the full development of Greek-Turkish relations depends. These relations have great potential and are critical to the stability of the wider region, as they are relations between two NATO member states, while Greece also supports Turkey's European perspective.

Mr. President,

Challenging times require demanding choices. The UN is in a position to tackle the new challenges, as it has so often done in the past, provided we all share the same vision and, most importantly, the necessary political will.

I thank you for your attention.

(Source: www.mfa.gr