Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ remarks with the ERT NEWS “STO KENTRO OI EKLOGES” show and journalists, G. Kouvaras, N. Meletis, A. Mangiriadis (15.05.2023)

G. KOUVARAS: Our first topic of discussion is foreign policy and Nikos Meletis, our diplomatic editor here at ERT, will ask Mr. Dendias.

N. MELETIS: Mr. Dendias, I don’t want to sound as if I’ m prognosticating where you will be after the elections, but in any case, you are leaving a significant legacy to your successor, to the one who will succeed you in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and that is the important agreements that you have signed, as well as the fact that you have opened the horizons of Greek foreign policy in geographic areas that had not previously been under the radar of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I’d like to ask you about Greek-Turkish relations. You have frequently stated that you will suggest a fresh approach to find a solution, to promote a solution to the problem of delimitation of the continental shelf and address the problems in Greek-Turkish relations. Do you believe that the problem in Greek-Turkish relations has so far been procedural rather than a substantive one due to Turkish positions?

N. DENDIAS: No, Mr. Meletis, I don’t think it’s a procedural issue. I believe it’s an issue of substance. But I also believe that the exploratory talks, which began with a specific rationale of taking the dispute between Greece and Türkiye to arbitration in The Hague in 2004, have fallen out of the rhythm that they were originally intended to have. And there have been 64 rounds with no tangible results, which we would have desired.

Therefore, I will not propose a change to the procedure but some changes which I believe will make it easier to determine whether Türkiye is willing to resolve the dispute after the elections or not.

N. MELETIS: Allow me to ask a follow-up question. Following the latest incidents in Himare with the arrest of Fredi Beleri, I’d like to ask: Minister, do you regret inviting Edi Rama to Athens and organizing an exhibition of his artworks at Zappeion? As has now been demonstrated, personal relations are not the rule when it comes to foreign policy.

N. DENDIAS. There are no regrets. The country must do all possible to foster good relations with its neighbours and it’s then up to its neighbours to realize that good relations with Greece are a major asset for these countries.

Therefore, my answer is ‘no’. I have no regrets whatsoever. Of course, if you will allow me to add a final comment on the heart of the matter. First of all, I’m very happy about Beleri being elected and I’d like to reiterate what Prime Minister Rama said: if there is no irrefutable, I repeat the word, irrefutable evidence against him, then arresting him and putting him on trial is an enormous scandal.

G. KATROUGALOS: I’d like to ask Mr. Dendias, who has already spoken, a question. We read in Kathimerini newspaper that Mr.  Erdoğan said that a new era can open for Greek-Turkish relations as long as Mr. Mitsotakis keeps his promises. Do you know what these promises are? Because I don’t. Furthermore, rather than the national position that we will refer the maritime economic zones, continental shelf and EEZ to The Hague, Mr. Mitsotakis consistently refers to the fact that we will refer maritime zones, including the territorial waters, which we have the sovereign right to extend.  How do you comment on that?

N. DENDIAS: Let me start with the second one. It goes without saying that there’s no Greek Prime Minister, or Prime Minister from any party, who would agree to discuss the issue of territorial waters. The issue of territorial waters and their extension to 12 miles, you know it and everyone knows it, is a unilateral right of our country. No one can cede it.

G. KATROUGALOS: Does Mr. Mitsotakis not know that?

N. DENDIAS: He obviously knows.

G. KATROUGALOS: And why does he say otherwise?

N. DENDIAS: It’s obvious that the current and the former and future Prime Ministers are not going to negotiate on the issue of territorial waters. Let us now return to the initial issue. I wouldn’t take any statements during the election period in Türkiye at face value.

It’s clear that President Erdoğan wanted to have a good election result. He was obliged to present a narrative to Turkish society in order to achieve this electoral result.
I haven’t used anything that was said during the pre-election period in Türkiye as a yardstick for the post-election period. If President Erdoğan wins after 14 days, his true colors will be seen. But let us not get caught up in what he said to his own domestic audience during the pre-election period.

Α. LOVERDOS: […] My question has to do with Mr. Meletis’ question that was not answered in any way. The minister was asked what new procedures or ideas he has for the talks with Türkiye. The Minister’s response was limited to the exploratory talks. He didn’t share his ideas with us.

And, secondly, as regards Albania, I believe the Minister should reflect, if he is not doing so, on the fact that the Prime Minister has very much strengthened Albania’s course towards the EU without claiming anything, while the minority is blatantly oppressed by Edi Rama.

N. DENDIAS: I am trying to follow the rules of the debate. First of all, on the first point, you’re right, Mr. Loverdos. I have not been sufficiently detailed in my answer to Mr. Meletis. But I have not been sufficiently detailed because precisely the procedure I propose to follow cannot be the subject of a public debate.

If I were to put it openly to any public audience, I would jeopardize its effectiveness. But to be honest, I’m completely ready to privately explain what I believe could be improved in this approach to any of you. And I’m sure, since we’ve worked together on foreign policy matters for so long, you wouldn’t want me to say openly what has to change in this.

Now as regards the issue of Albania’s European perspective, Mr. Mitsotakis did not do anything new. Mr. Mitsotakis followed the 2003 Thessaloniki Agenda.

What does the 2003 Thessaloniki Agenda say? It says that our country, Greece, can benefit from the European perspective of the Balkan countries, of all Balkan countries.

We have succeeded in the Eastern Balkans; we are trying for the Western Balkans. In the context of this perspective, it is certain that the Greek National minority will benefit the most.

Because there won’t be such things as a Beleri arrest when there is European rule of law. As a result, Kyriakos Mitsotakis has favored the Greek national minority, which he visited a few weeks ago.