BAKU: Greek Foreign Minister: We Are Hopeful For Further Development

GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER: WE ARE HOPEFUL FOR FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL CO-OPERATION WITH AZERBAIJAN

Azeri Press Agency, Azerbaijan
April 5 2007

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece Ms Dora Bakoyannis has been
interviewed by the APA.

– How do you appreciate the current relations between Azerbaijan
and Greece?

– Our two countries enjoy good political and cultural relations. The
last two years have seen a dynamic exchange of high-level meetings
which help towards fostering closer ties. Greece is hopeful that we
will further develop and deepen our political, economic and cultural
co-operation. In this spirit, we eagerly await to welcome the Azeri
delegation at the 2nd Session of the Joint Ministerial Committee
for Economic and Technological Co-operation, which will be hosted
in Athens.

– What is the official position of Greece in the solution of Kosovo
problem?

– The main aim of Greece’s policy is to have a Southeastern European
neighbourhood characterised by flourishing economies, opportunity
for its citizens, peace, security and stability.

We believe in the need to devise a viable and sustainable solution
to the Kosovo issue. To this end, we stood behind and supported the
international community’s efforts to bridge differences and to bring
about a compromise which will ensure the functionality and viability
of any solution. We have repeatedly called upon both sides to show
the necessary constructive spirit and realism during the negotiation
process.

In short, the Greek government’s position on the issue of Kosovo’s
future status is threefold. First, we have insisted, and continue to
insist, that any solution should be consistent with the principles
and values of the European Union, and should be devised within the
framework of the region’s European perspective. Second, we believe
that if a democratic Kosovo is to emerge, it will have to become
a multiethnic and multicultural society, which will tolerate and
protect the rights of all its citizens, regardless of their religion
and ethnic origin. Third, the international community has to ensure
that any solution reached will bear no negative impact on the region’s
stability.

– Do you think that the possibly Kosovo’s independence precedent
might be applied in the case of the "frozen conflicts" from postsoviet
republics? Is it dangerous this precedent for international stability?

– I don’t believe that Kosovo may constitute a precedent. The situation
in Kosovo is in no way comparable to those in other regions. The
case of Kosovo is unique; it has its own historic trajectory, its own
internal particularities, its own present realities. It is an error
to generalise; to take a very specific situation out of context and
try to apply it elsewhere.

– What is the position of Greece in the "frozen conflicts" from
postsoviet republics and specially Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict?

– Greece supports the territorial integrity and inviolability of all
borders. This, naturally, refers to the borders of all post-soviet
republics including, of course, Azerbaijan.

With regard to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, we support the
efforts made on behalf of both the Azeri and Armenian presidents to
find a mutually acceptable solution to the Nagorno-Karabach conflict.

The efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and its co-chairmen towards the
settlement of the conflict are also extremely important. We sincerely
hope that a peaceful solution will soon be reached, and that the
refugees will be able to safely return to their homes.

– What is importance of Nabucco project for Greece and what kind of
place Athens wants to take in this project?

– The ‘Nabucco’ project is included in the EU’s Trans-European Energy
Network and constitutes a priority for the EU and its neighbouring
countries. Hence, while Greece is not directly involved in the project,
we support its construction. We do so for two main reasons which we
believe to be of crucial importance. First, it is a project which
will diversify energy supply routings. Second, coupled with the TGI
Interconnector Project which could be operational by the year 2011,
both pipelines will greatly contribute to Europe’s energy security.

How is the activity of Muslim community in political and social life
of Greece?

We Greeks have a deep respect for all religions. We have been living
alongside Muslims for centuries and have a profound understanding
of Islam.

We are supporters and promoters of the dialogue of religions and
believe in the need for all spiritual leaders of all faiths to extend
the hand of friendship and of peace. This is essential for our peaceful
cohabitation. It provides the space within which to build bridges,
foster trust, address common challenges and resolve divisive issues. In
this spirit, we do not distinguish between peoples of different faiths,
and Muslims living in Greece enjoy the same rights and obligations
as all other inhabitants. Equality before the law and the state is
a value which is firmly entrenched in Greece, irrespective of religion.

– Besides energy, in what spheres is Azerbaijan attractive for Greece?

– Azerbaijan is a wonderful country with a plethora of resources. It
offers a great deal of opportunities for investment in the agriculture
sector, construction, communication, banking, telecoms, transport and,
of course, tourism.

Furthermore, our two countries can further deepen their bonds via
the cultural sector. For instance, I know that the Azeri people
have shown a great interest in Greek culture and civilization. The
Hellenic Cultural Centre at the Slavic University of Baku are doing
noteworthy work in terms of promoting and teaching the Greek language
and civilisation to Azeri students. Equally, Azerbaijan is a country
with many cultural and tourist attractions to offer. The old city of
Baku, for instance, with its fine arts and history museums housed in
pre-revolutionary mansions is magnificent. Moreover, Baku’s Palace
of the Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower, which are classified by UNESCO
as World Heritage Sites, are a splendour for the eyes. In short,
cultural co-operation, coupled by tourism, are domains which offer
both countries a great many opportunities.

– Greece is the member of EU. How do you value Azerbaijan’s
perspectives for accession to this organization? How can you help
Azerbaijan in this way?

– For Greece, Azerbaijan is an important and valuable partner and
ally. During the Greek EU Presidency in 2003, our country supported
Azerbaijan’s rapprochement with the EU. Indeed, we promoted the idea
of appointing an EU Special Representative for Southern Caucasus.

EU-Azerbaijani relations are developing on several levels. Your country
has been a member of the Council of Europe since 2001 and has been the
EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy partner since 2006. The signing of
the EU-Azerbaijani Action Plan will, I believe, contribute further
to bringing the two sides even closer. It will also help Azerbaijan
in its reforms. In short, it provides Azerbaijan with the unique
opportunity to make full use of an enhanced co-operation with the EU.

Moreover, the EU and Azerbaijan have entered a new era of
co-operation in the energy sector with the signing of the Memorandum
of Understanding. Both sides share mutual interests and challenges in
the energy sector. The signing of this memorandum not only provides
the legal framework for co-operation but is also a tangible expression
of the political will from both sides to work alongside each other –
to be partners.

– Does Greece, as a NATO state, intend to enlarge military cooperation
with Azerbaijan?

– There have been instances of co-operation. For example, we trained
Azeri officers at the Multinational Peace Support Operation Training
Centre in Kilkis, Northern Greece. This Centre is one of the 11 NATO
PfP Training Centres. We would be willing and happy to repeat this
training programme.

Greece welcomes Azerbaijan’s commitment to Partnership for Peace,
as well as its desire to sign an agreement on bilateral military
co-operation. The Greek government has always supported and promoted
the idea of co-operation and partnership. We believe that partnerships
and alliances breed peace and security. To this end, we welcome any
proposals for a closer co-operation that the Azeri side may have
to offer.

– Greece signed an agreement in the sphere of energy with Bulgaria
and Russia which envisages transferring the Russian oil through
Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline. Is this project a concurrent of
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline?

– The month of March marked the three-way signing of the
Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline. Greece, Russia and Bulgaria signed
for the construction of an oil pipeline which will transport Russian
crude oil to Mediterranean shores. This will be economically more
efficient and will reduce the environmental risk in the Straits.

Moreover, it will serve to decongest the already ‘overworked’
Bosphorus Straits.

It is an error to view this important project as antagonistic to either
the Straits or the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceylan pipeline. Large-scale energy
projects such as the Burgas-Alexandroupoli and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceylan
pipelines are welcome by the international community. They should be
seen as complementary rather than in competition with one another. Such
projects are important for the environmental future of our planet. They
are also crucial in diversifying energy source routings, thereby
enhancing energy security.

Finally, we must not forget that they also contribute to the
wider economic development our continent. The construction of such
energy projects should be supported and promoted by everyone in the
international community as they are to the benefit of the whole of
the international community.

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