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A ‘better diplomat’ after Athens

On a more personal level, if I may. There were times in Athens when you had to go into high diplomatic gear. The war in Kosovo, the capture of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, and the protests at the visit by President Bill Clinton. Did you find that this was of any benefit to you in your later career – in Brussels and now in Washington? (Laughs) Let me say, first, as my family and I look back upon our time in Greece, we have nearly universal positive memories, because we have retained a lot of affection for the country and for its people. And we have made so many friends, who continue to be friends to this day. On my nameday, last December 6, I can’t tell you how many e-mails and telephone calls I had from Greek friends. We’re in touch with lots of Greek friends and I’m in touch with lots of Greek politicians as well. So those years, there were some tough times during those years. You mentioned three of those incidents. I suppose they did make me a better diplomat, as they taught me how to operate at a time of crisis; they taught me how to operate at a time of public criticism. I’m convinced we did the right thing in the Kosovo war. We stopped the massacre of Albanians by the Serbs. I’m convinced we did the right thing there. The Ocalan affair – Ocalan is a terrorist. He deserves to stand trial for terrorist crimes. But I think that for the most part, what we were able to do when I was ambassador – and I know Ambassador Ries is trying very hard and successfully to do – is build a more modern relationship between Greece and the US. And I think we’ve done it. We’ve got much closer economic, trade and investment ties now than we had before. We have better cooperation on counterterrorism because of the Olympic Games. Greece has made significant inroads into terrorism itself, with the arrest of the November 17 terrorists. And so I’m very, very pleased for having had the experience of being ambassador there and those difficult experiences tested all of us and they certainly improved my own skills. But I have good memories.