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Powell IV on Greek TV NET With Demitris Apokis

Interview on Greek TV NET With Demitris Apokis

Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC April 25, 2003

(10:55 a.m. EDT)

MR. APOKIS: Mr. Secretary, Greece holds the EU presidency in a very critical time for the international system. During the Greek presidency of the EU, we had the war in Iraq, which caused a big friction to U.S.-European relations. How do you characterize the role Greece played during this critical time, its stance toward the U.S. and its handling of the crisis in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it was a difficult time for the Greek presidency, but I think the Greek presidency handled the difficulties with great skill. There was a split within the European Union over Iraq and how to support or not support what the coalition was doing, and I think that the Greek presidency, and especially my colleague Foreign Minister Papandreou, did a good job of modulating those differences so that it didn't result in a complete rupture.

More important now, though, is as we move forward to rebuild Iraq and help the people build a better life for themselves, and as we have seen such a success in Iraq, the EU will have an important role to play in that reconstruction effort. And the Foreign Minister and I are already talking about the role for the EU to play and the role for Greece to play.

MR. APOKIS: Recently, we had the enlargement of the European Union with ten new members. Cyprus is one of the new members. And despite the efforts of the UN Secretary General to facilitate a settlement before the accession to the EU and the diplomatic assistance he received by President Bush and you and other senior officials, Mr. Annan's efforts failed. What is your reaction to this failure and how do you see the future of Cyprus?

SECRETARY POWELL: We were disappointed that we were not able to achieve progress on Secretary General Annan's plan, a third version of his plan. But we believe there are positive elements in that plan that are still there, available for the two sides to use and to work with as they move forward. So even though we didn't achieve what we had hoped to achieve, we hope that in the months ahead both sides will review the bidding now that the accession issue of Cyprus into the EU is dealt with.

And I must say, I'm somewhat fascinated by the opening of the transit areas, the border areas, so that people can go back and forth. This is an interesting development and it will be very interesting to see what happens in the days ahead as people start to interact with one another more closely. And maybe that will bring pressure to bear on their political leaders to find a way forward.

MR. APOKIS: And the issue of Turkey's accession. We heard the historic decision by the UN in Copenhagen. How do you see this issue -- what Turkey has to do and what Europe has to do?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, Turkey knows what it has to do to meet the conditions that were set forth. We believe that Turkey belongs in the European Union. I don't think the European Union will ever be complete without Turkey being a member of that union. And so we hope all the conditions will be met and I hope at some future time when it's taken up for consideration again, all the factors will be positive.

MR. APOKIS: Recently, Greece had a major success against domestic terrorism with the arrest and prosecution of the 17 of November terrorists. The trial of the members of this terrorist organization is ongoing right now. Give us your reaction to these events and what do you expect from the trial.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I will let the trial go on without commenting on it, and not to get involved in what is a judicial matter. Let me just say that we were very pleased that after all these years, finally, the leaders of this organization are being brought to justice. This was a major problem that just went on and on and on with respect to bilateral relations between Greece and the United States, and it was a threat to Greece's own democracy. So I am glad, finally, that this terror organization has been broken up.

MR. APOKIS: Greece will organize the 2004 Olympic Games. Are you satisfied with the progress of the preparations for the Games, with the U.S.-Greek cooperation on the matter, and more specifically, with the preparations regarding the security of the Games?

SECRETARY POWELL: This will be a major challenge for the Greek Government, but in my conversations with Foreign Minister Papandreou I know that the Greek Government is hard at work on this. We are providing assistance. We are providing support. We are providing any information we can provide to make sure that we have a safe Olympics season in Greece. I mean, the home of the Olympics. We want it to go off without a hitch and without any trouble.

And we hope that some of the success we've been having on the war against terrorism and the way we have terrorists on the run will also contribute to having a much safer environment for the Olympics next year. And I hope I will have a chance to visit during the Olympic season.

MR. APOKIS: And finally, one question. Because of the Iraq situation, there is a spread of anti-Americanism in Greece. At the same time, you are very popular in Greece personally. Do you plan before the end of the administration, of this term of the administration, to visit Greece?

SECRETARY POWELL: Absolutely. I wish I had had the chance to visit Greece already because I very much enjoy visiting in your wonderful country. And you can be sure that it's on my agenda to do it as soon as I can.

Anti-Americanism troubles me. Greece is a close friend. But I hope that as the Greek people review what we did in Iraq, and as they see the faces of these Iraqi citizens who are now free of the repression, free of the terror, as they see the evidence of Saddam Hussein's cruel regime and cruel ruling come to the front, when they see pictures of people being pulled up out of their graves who had been murdered and butchered and terrorized, I hope they will realize that this is a regime that the world is glad to be rid of, and that the coalition did something that was noble and right. And that should, in my judgment, reverse some of this anti-American feeling.

I also believe that as the Greek people see what we are doing in the Middle East with the assistance of the European Union presidency, with the appointment now and soon the confirmation of Mr. Abu Mazen to be the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, and the European Union will have a role to play as part of the Quartet in helping the Palestinians and the Israelis moving forward.

MR. APOKIS: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Let me take this final opportunity to extend to you and to all of your viewers and all of the Greek people my best wishes for a Happy Easter.

MR. APOKIS: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. [End]

Released on April 25, 2003

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