In a statement to Kathimerini, President of the Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, has signaled Greece’s desire for peaceful coexistence with Turkey, stressing however that Athens will resolutely defend itself. Her statement came as a response to the furious reaction of the Turkish Foreign Ministry last week after the President referred to the massacre of the Greeks of Pontos of 1914-1918 as a “genocide.”
“Europe is a modern European democracy, that fully respects international law and neighborly relations. Ensuring peace, security, and stability in Southeastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean is a cornerstone of our national strategy,” Sakellaropoulou told Kathimerini, and noted that “we never abandoned the way of diplomacy, [conducted] with the interests of our country as well as the prosperity of the wider region in mind.”
“We have consistently sought cooperation with Turkey and have pursued harmonious coexistence and friendship between our two peoples,” but Sakellaropoulou stressed that “there can be no retreat in the face of unacceptable claims and aggressive acts.”
“Our country will continue to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of Pontic Greek victims. Recognizing it as a genocide is the least we can do to pay tribute to the sacrifice of Pontic Hellenism and the heroic contribution of the survivors to the rebuilding, both economically and culturally, of the Greek state in the 20th century,” Sakellaropoulou stated on the issue that raised the ire of the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
“Safeguarding historical memory is not just about looking at the past. It holds an important symbolic function for the present and it teaches us. It imparts to us the morality of truth and responsibility. It reminds us of the power of forgiveness and of the value of finding an accord,” said the president, highlighting the role of history, before concluding that “ignorance of history breeds stereotypes and prejudice, introversion and division. The silences of the past gives birth to the disputes of the future. Knowledge and acceptance of history is a brave and self-aware act. One that must be primarily and symbolically undertaken by the political world, contributing to sober dialogue and a shared journey of nations.”