Foreign Minister Kotzias: For Turkey to cast doubt on international law would be merely frivolous

For Turkey to cast doubt on international law would be merely frivolous, Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said on Wednesday to the private radio station ‘Alpha’. Asked about recent Turkish statements questioning the Lausanne Treaty’s division of the Greek islands, Kotzias said that such voices were a “nationalist crescendo” aimed at domestic audiences in Turkey, in a bid to divert attention from the country’s real problems.

“…it has nothing to do with the real events. The issue of the Lausanne Treaty was raised in an internal discussion that [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is having with the Kemalists and the political confrontation between them,” Kotzias said, while noting that this discussion also had repercussions outside Turkey.

According to Kotzias, Turkey was a “jittery” power and the recent coup attempt was the ultimate expression of this.
“The neighbouring country is to a great degree relatively isolated, has serious problems with Russia, historically has problems with Armenia and is facing a war in Syria and Iraq,” the minister noted, adding that Turkey was currently the “best neighbour” that Greece could have.

Athens’ position was to encourage Turkey to become more European and democratic, accept the implementation of international law and the law of the sea and the European acquis, Kotzias said.

“We are keeping channels open on all levels in order to seek solutions. In many areas (tourism, transport) we have very good relations that help the economy as a whole. We have some positive steps but, at the same time, we must be very careful because there are forces in the Turkish establishment that think in a revisionist way and must understand that they cannot hope to implement revisionist plans,” he added.

With regard to the refugee problem, the foreign minister said that Greece is pushing for the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement, noting that both sides must implement the agreements. On the fence being erected on the Bulgarian border, Kotzias pointed out that Bulgaria had so far behaved very well toward Greece, with the two sides cultivating a friendly relationship of partnership.

“The refugee issue is a complex problem, which the EU must prove it is able to tackle creatively and by correctly allocating spending. What we are striving for is to tackle the refugee problem at its source. Primarily is it a problem of war in Syria, something that many forget,” Kotzias said.

On relations with Albania, Kotzias strongly denied that Greece had at any time agreed to negotiate on the so-called Cham issue with the neighbouring country.

“The only reference [to the Cham issue] is in a non-paper that we sent to the Albanians saying that this issue is not an topic of negotiation for the Greek State,” he said. The Greek side had informed its European partners but had not asked them to intervene on Greece’s behalf, he added. “We negotiate with the Albanians and the Albanians with us,” he said.

Asked about the answer given by European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn to a question on this issue, Kotzias put the Commissioner’s reply down to “carelessness” for which Hahn had later apologised. His statement was seized upon, however, by forces and media opposed to the government, in order to claim that it had launched negotiations on a Cham issue.