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Cablegate: Thessaloniki: Gog Invites Former Adversaries to National

VZCZCXRO0140
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHLZ
RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIK #0078 3051333
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 311333Z OCT 08
FM AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0392
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHIK/AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI 0434

UNCLAS THESSALONIKI 000078

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL GR MK TU IT BK BU MW AL HR YI
SUBJECT: THESSALONIKI: GOG INVITES FORMER ADVERSARIES TO NATIONAL
DAY CELEBRATIONS FOR FIRST TIME

1. (U) SUMMARY: In a reconciliatory gesture, Defense
Minister of Greece Evangelos Meimarakis invited his counterparts
from Turkey, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and other outheastern
European countries, to attend the traditional military parade on
Greece's national day, October 28 (Greece's entry into WWII).
All invited countries sent representatives, except Macedonia.
For the first time since 1948, the Italian ambassador attended
the parade. Remarks by the Greek President and MOD stressed
support for regional cooperation and integration, with indirect
but pointed remarks about the need for some Balkan countries to
let go of "historical falsifications." The parade was largely
uneventful, except for some nationalistic chanting by one group
of former soldiers ("Macedonia is Greek, we will never give it
to Skopje"). National media and most political parties reacted
positively to the MOD's initiative. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) For the first time in the post-World War II era, the
GoG invited the Defense Ministers of all southeastern European
countries to the annual military parade that took place in
Thessaloniki, on October 28, Greece's national day. Meimarakis,
who extended the invitation and was the Prime Minister's
official representative to the parade, was an active and
attentive host, providing his guests an extensive program of
events, including two dinners with the President of the
Republic. Defense Ministers of Turkey, Bosnia, Montenegro and
Cyprus, the Deputy Ministers of Defense of Bulgaria and Albania
and the Secretaries General of the Ministries of Defense of
Croatia and Serbia attended the festivities. There were no
representatives of the Macedonian Ministry of Defense, which
declined the invitation.

3. (U) Italy was represented at the parade by its Ambassador to
Greece Gianpaolo Scarante, in a move that was hailed by the
Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera" as "an end to an
imaginary crisis." Thessaloniki daily "Makedonia" also
applauded the initiative, calling it "extremely interesting".
[Note: On October 28 1940, Greek PM Metaxas received an
ultimatum from Mussolini's ambassador to surrender or be
invaded. Metaxas refused to surrender (famously saying "alors,
c'est la guerre", which has been abbreviated to "OXI" -Greek for
"No". Hence, the day is also called "OXI Day.") Greece
successfully defended itself against the Italian attack which
marked Greece's entry into World War II. End note]

4. (U) President of the Republic Papoulias commended Minister
of Defense Meimarakis on his initiative, noting the need for "a
new chapter in the region, based on respect for human rights and
a spirit of peaceful co-existence." He also praised the foreign
dignitaries who attended, "despite the criticism they may have
received in their countries." Indirectly referring to
Macedonia, he urged Balkan countries to "walk the road to
Europe, leaving behind illusions and historical falsifications".
MoD Meimarakis also spoke obliquely about Macedonia when he said
"we are sending a message to all the others that we, at the
regional level, can reach understanding amongst
ourselves~despite different assessments and views, overcome
these issues and find the climate of confidence and the
solutions necessary in order to move forward with our eyes
turned to the future." Most media and political parties
reacted positively, with the exception of far-right LAOS which
called it "out of place," based on Greece's outstanding issues
with some of these countries (Turkey, Macedonia, Albania). The
two-hour military parade was largely uneventful, except for one
brief incident of chanting by uniformed former special forces
soldiers (veterans) in one group of marchers: "Macedonia is
Greek, we will never give it to Skopje!"

5. (SBU) COMMENT: The presence of senior MOD officials from
southeast Europe, including former adversaries Turkey, Bulgaria,
Albania and Croatia, was widely viewed in northern Greece (the
heart of Greek nationalism) as a sign of growing reconciliation,
solidarity and Greek leadership in the region. With the
exception of the nationalistic chanting incident during the
parade (which is not uncommon for this event), the tone of the
parade and other national day events was positive and mostly
forward-looking. President Papoulias, MOD Meimarakis and local
officials appeared determined to send the message that Greece
wants to heal old wounds and move ahead. Notably, Greek
official were relatively mute on the name issue and did not seek
to exploit Macedonia's absence from the festivities for domestic
political purposes. END COMMENT.

YEE

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