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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-06-08

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From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Greece's foreign policy strategy is specific and steady, government stresses

  • [01] Greece's foreign policy strategy is specific and steady, government stresses

    "Our country has a steady, specific strategy on foreign policy that has been supported for more than 30 years by the two main parties - and not just by them," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed on Thursday.

    "One of the tools [of this policy] is recourse to The Hague for the continental shelf issue. This will happen when conditions are ripe," Antonaros added.

    The spokesman had been asked to comment on a proposal put forward on Wednesday by the leader of Greece's main opposition party, Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) president George Papandreou, who said that Greece should exercise the right to extend its territorial waters before taking differences with Turkey over the Aegean continental shelf for arbitration to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

    He also disputed that the Papandreou proposal "deviated" in any way from Greece's established strategy toward Turkey: "There is no new element in the 'new strategy' that Mr. Papandreou announced that he would propose," Antonaros asserted in response to reporters' questions.

    This position was echoed in statements made by foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on the same issue, who added that the core of Greece's strategy toward Turkey was to encourage its European orientation while at the same time promoting contacts in the energy, tourism and economic sectors.

    Pointing out that exploratory contacts with Turkey were continuing, Koumoutsakos noted that "within this coherent strategy, the possibility of a role for the International Court at The Hague was always there and remains always as a tool, an option for Greek foreign policy."

    Questioned about an upcoming meeting on Saturday between Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul in Istanbul - and whether Bakoyannis intended to raise the issue of Turkey's 'casus belli' threat against Greece - the spokesman stressed that Greece had always rejected the threat to use force.

    "It is a policy that we have repeatedly described as an anachronism, especially after the start of Turkey's EU accession process, and at no time has any Greek government accepted the logic of this threat of the use of force," he underlined.

    Asked if extending Greece's territorial waters was a necessary first step before going to the international court, Koumoutsakos said that delineating the Aegean continental shelf depended on drawing up the borders of the coastal zone on the basis of the international treaty for maritime law.

    Greece has reserved the right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, instead of the current six miles, which is the limit allowed under international treaties for maritime law.

    Regarding a request by the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party, whose representative at the National Council for Foreign Policy Nikos Constantopoulos had asked to be given access to the minutes of the 22 rounds of exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey, both Antonaros and Koumoutsakos stressed that these were held in confidential foreign ministry files.

    According to Antonaros, giving Constantopoulos access to these files was a matter for Parliament, while Koumoutsakos ruled out any possibility of a handover:

    "These files do not belong to anyone apart from the foreign ministry," he said.

    Interpretation of Papandreou's proposals 'completely wrong', PASOK claims

    According to main opposition PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis, meanwhile, the interpretation given to Papandreou's proposals was "completely wrong".

    He said that Papandreou had not called for an immediate extension of Greece's territorial waters but had presented a comprehensive strategy, whose starting point had been that the government and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis take initiatives to de-escalate tension with Turkey.

    "Papandreou's proposal says that before one has recourse to The Hague, one must have reached a decision as regards extending territorial waters. Is there anyone who says that we must go to The Hague with the present six miles? If so, they should come out and say so," PASOK's spokesman stressed.

    He also urged reporters to assess the proposal itself and not what is "being manufactured and circulated as the so-called proposal of PASOK's president".

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