‘No secret diplomacy’ in exploratory talks with Turkey

There have been rumors recently that important developments are expected in bilateral issues with Turkey, chiefly the continental shelf, before the end of the year. Is that true? I wish it were. It has always been our policy to resolve our differences over the definition of the continental shelf within the bounds of international law, the Law of the Sea, international treaties and the European acquis communautaire. In this case, we would be dealing with a decisive step in the direction of normalizing our bilateral relations, a further reduction in tension and the consolidation of a climate of mutual trust. Despite the truly unprecedentedly good climate in these discussions, rumors of «world-shattering developments» are not based on fact, nor on the exploratory talks between the two countries. New impetus (Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah) Gul is shortly to visit Greece. My Turkish counterpart and I will have the opportunity to give new impetus to our bilateral relations on the occasion of his official visit to Athens on October 21. We will be seeking areas of mutual interest for undertaking initiatives. Our goal is to resolve the problems of the past. This can be done with systematic, careful work, step by step. An important achievement is the fact that even when we disagree, there is no longer any of the tension of the past. Another achievement is that we are moving toward agreement on the cancellation of military exercises, and confirming at the UN our common will to implement an international treaty on the destruction of anti-personnel mines along our common borders. There have been 15 rounds of exploratory talks between Athens and Ankara at the highest diplomatic level. Why has this dialogue not developed into a substantial discussion? Why has the Greek Parliament not been briefed? I am afraid that some people, for purely opposition-related purposes, instead of submitting proposals and strategies, are trying to bestow a conspiratorial air on the contacts that are continuing between the two countries. I have often heard mention of «unilateral concessions» and other catastrophic scenarios. Unfortunately for these people, these rumors are not confirmed by reality, as was the case recently when Cyprus joined the European Union. I think that these (reactions) are born of insecurity complexes and fear. They reflect a previous age, outmoded ways of thinking. They reflect a pathological dislike of dialogue typical of weaker countries. Yet things are far simpler and clearer. Since the beginning of the process, I have personally briefed Parliament’s Committee for Foreign Affairs and Defense, the parties and the deputies, on the goals, the content and the framework of these exploratory contacts. We have all been in agreement on the framework, which is none other than the principles of international law, the rights arising from the Law of the Sea, international treaties and European acquis communautaire. We are not negotiating our sovereign rights with Turkey. Nevertheless, ND is virtually accusing you of secret diplomacy. But I have often talked to the political parties and assured them that when and if the exploratory talks conclude and before negotiations begin, there will be a broad, in-depth briefing of Parliament. As for the criticism being leveled by ND regarding procedures, I would like to remind them that in the past, under the government of Constantine Karamanlis, they had entered into substantial negotiations on all issues without briefing the opposition. In the Middle East, a major crisis is in progress. What should the European Union do? Once again, it appears to be absent from the international diplomatic stage. The recent dramatic events once more confirm the strategic stalemate in the Middle East and for which the political leaders of Israel and Palestine bear great responsibility. The continuing violence and terrorism might facilitate the political survival of the leaders of both sides, but they undermine stability and peace in the broader region. At this critical time, we should speak our for peace around the world, mobilize the people of Israel and Palestine to exert international pressure so that the last hope for peace is not lost. Making accusations is no longer enough. From discussions with many moderate Arabs and Israelis, (it is clear that) they expect Europe in particular to undertake a new international initiative. The road map must be implemented. We have to help the forces for peace, within Israel and Palestine, to function as an alternative to conflict.