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Condoleezza Rice Remarks With Greek Foreign Min.

Remarks With Greek Foreign Minister Theodora Bakoyannis After Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Athens, Greece
April 25, 2006

FOREIGN MINISTER BAKOYANNIS: (Via interpreter) It is my great pleasure to welcome the Foreign Secretary of the United States of America and my dear friend Condoleezza Rice to this country. Once more just like when we were in Washington we had a very useful conversation on a wide range of issues of mutual interest. As you see we regularly meet to discuss both bilateral and Secretary Rice shakes hands with Foreign Minister Theodora Bakoyannis, Apr. 25. 2006. AP photo international issues. Miss Rice and myself, we have seen that bilateral relations are at their best level for many years.

Greece and the U.S. are brought together by bonds of friendship and cooperation already since the Greek independence. We are (inaudible) of the ancient Greek democracy (inaudible) the farthest of these (inaudible) and the ideals of the American War of Independence have subsequently become one of the main source of inspiration for the Greek liberation struggle some years later. The active and successful economically and socially Greek American community in the United States is an important bridge historically bringing close together closer the American and the Greek peoples.

Greeks and Americans have fought side by side in every great struggle of the 20th century, always fighting for freedom and democracy. It is therefore to be expected that we should collaborate nowadays closely in order to deal as friends as allies the global and regional challenges of our era. Among these I should like to highlight the need to consolidate stability and progress here in Southeastern Europe, the fight against poverty, the fight against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the dealing with natural disasters, and finally fighting against international terrorism, the tragic consequences of which we have also felt yesterday in Egypt with innocent victims.

This is a long history and a strong friendship binding our two republics and is based on joint values and principles, on common struggles and in our participation in the great community of states of NATO states. Our objectives are in general identical, but as is to expected for democratic countries, for countries where the freedom of opinion prevails, we're not always identical as far as the manner in which these objectives can be achieved. And that is why we collaborate systematically. We aim at the best possible coordination and promotion of our bilateral relations politically and economically to our mutual benefit.

Our strategic relationship is based on our conviction that we can collaborate effectively to promote the international peace and security. Greece is a modern European democracy and we are proud of that. Our country is a reliable partner within the European Union, an economic power in the Balkans, a country which invests and spends national resources in order to contribute to stability, growth and progress in the wider region; stability, peace and economic growth in the Balkans; as well as the settlement of the future status of Kosovo.

Within this framework are an important concern for our Balkan policy. Our policy promotes and strengthens the European perspective of all the countries in the region. We are doing this, and as I have explained to my counterpart, in every possible manner. We promote the issues of our -- we bring up the issues of our neighbors to the European Union. We make Greece a major and safe energy center in the area to the benefit of the region and we improve our -- the infrastructures and the transportation network of the peninsula.

We are doing all this because we believe that the European road, the roads to Europe, is the safest road towards a better future for all the peoples of the Balkans. Part of this strategic choice is to support the European perspective of Turkey. When Turkey fulfills the criteria and conditions as well as when they adapt to the acquis communautaire, they must be led, in our view, to full accession to the European Union. But this must come as the culmination of the full compliance of Turkey to its European course which they have chosen to follow.

Within this framework I had the opportunity of discussing once more with Mrs. [sic] Rice the issues of the respect for the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the safeguarding of its smooth functioning. I believe that after the 3rd of October of 2005 we have opened a new window of opportunity, a European window of opportunity, for real substantial progress in our bilateral relations.

Greece is firmly committed to constantly improving these relations in every sector. In Greece, courage decisions have been taken, political and economical decisions, in this direction. We are looking forward to our neighboring country responding and we are stating today that this response is not adequate to date. On the contrary, we unfortunately have to deal with challenges which do not go in line with the good neighborly relations or the participation by Turkey, the accession of the European Union as a full member.

In relation to the Cyprus issue, we are firmly committed to achieving a fair, viable and functional solution. Recently we have seen a new impetus which we must all make the best of. We must create the conditions for the start of a new effort within the United Nations organization, an effort that will have seriously guaranteed success. Nobody, I believe, can take another failure. On our side in Greece, in collaboration, always in collaboration with the Republic of Cyprus, we are working in a firm and decisive manner in this matter in this direction.

Ms. Rice and I have also reviewed developments in the Middle East and we have discussed the perspectives which are opened to us. Within this framework we have also discussed developments in relation to Iran's nuclear program. Greece was and still is against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We therefore believe that Iran should avoid provocative statements which increase the mistrust vis-à-vis this country and should give other "convincing" assurances that they are not aiming at achieving nuclear weapons through the development of nuclear technology. It is on this basis we participate on the Board of the IAEA and of course in the United Nations Security Council, which is of vital importance a decisive role in this issue which is of concern to all of us. The position of Greece is that international community should in a concerted manner achieve the peaceful settlement of this issue. Safeguarding peace and promoting freedom and democracy was and still is the way forward for us.

My dear friend Condoleezza, once more welcome to Athens. Welcome to Greece. Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: I want to thank the Foreign Minister and the Government of Greece for the invitation to come here and for the invitation which was issued when you were in Washington and, fortunately, I was able to take it up right away so that we could continue our fruitful discussions. And Dora and I have spent a good deal of time today talking about a wide range of issues. Let me just underscore a couple of things that the Minister has said.

First of all, Greece and the United States are strategic partners but we are more than that; we are countries that share deep values of democracy and freedom and a desire to see a world in which those values of democracy and freedom triumph for those who are not yet able to enjoy the blessings of liberty.

We are, of course, also allies in NATO and we have seen the work of NATO expand to global responsibilities in Afghanistan, in support of security assistance and training in Iraq. We, of course, see NATO trying to support efforts in Sudan to end the terrible conditions in Darfur. And we look forward to meeting again in Sofia at the end of the week to continue our work on NATO.

We did have a discussion of the importance of sustaining the pillars of stability in Southeastern Europe; of course, the relationship between Turkey and Greece, which has improved so dramatically over the last years; and the important work and stance that Greece has taken to support a European perspective and accession for Turkey in accordance with the requirements that Turkey has undertaken.

We discussed the need for a resolution of the situation in Cyprus. It is something that has gone on far too long and we would hope that the elements for a Cyprus resolution might come into being and indeed we discussed what some of those elements might be.

We also discussed the importance of a resolution of the situation in Kosovo so that the Balkans can be a place of stability and democracy.

And finally, we did discuss other global issues, including the importance of a diplomatic solution to the problem of the Iranian nuclear ambitions. Greece is a member of the Security Council and we discussed the fact that there is a forthcoming report at the end of the week and the need for the Security Council to then consider what actions must be taken to reinforce the credibility of the international demands that Iran indeed live up to the obligations that it undertook as a member of the Nonproliferation Treaty and the requirements that have been set out by the IAEA Board of Governors.

It was, as befits a partner, a friend, friends like Greece and the United States, a wide-ranging discussion based on our values, based on our shared interest, based indeed in our ties of kinship throughout the ages. But I want very much to thank my colleague for the warm welcome that I've received here and I look forward to many more opportunities to discuss these important issues, including, I hope, a return to Greece when I can stay longer and see more of this beautiful city.

Thank you very much.

MR. MCCORMACK: The first question to Anne Gearan of Associated Press.

QUESTION: Hello. Madame Secretary, Iran's top nuclear negotiator said this morning that Iran will withdraw its cooperation from the IAEA if the Security Council presses ahead with sanctions. And this comes on top of President Ahmadi-Nejad's statements yesterday that Iran may withdraw from the NPT altogether. Aren't these just the consequences that Russia and perhaps others have warned of if there (inaudible) pressure on Iran and what do you think at this point it means for the possibility of (inaudible) sanctions after the IAEA report?

And for the Foreign Minister, as a Security Council member, would Greece support sanctions at the Security Council?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that what the Iranian statements do is to further Iran's isolation from the international community. Threatening the international community that you will walk out of treaty obligations, that you'll throw the IAEA out because the world demands that you demonstrate that your nuclear programs are indeed peaceful and not on the way to a nuclear weapon, is very emblematic of the kind of Iranian behavior that we've seen over the last couple of years.

I want to be very clear that, first of all, we have no argument with the Iranian people. They deserve better than they are currently seeing from their government, because the actions of their government are isolating Iran further and further. The Iranian regime has said that it wants civil nuclear power. It can have civil nuclear power. But no one, given Iran's past behavior, is prepared to allow Iran under cover of a civil nuclear program to acquire the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon. And so that's the issue. It is not about Iran's right to civil nuclear power. It is about past behaviors that have convinced the international community that there need to be objective guarantees that this is not going to be a nuclear weapons program. And that means that these technologies cannot be available on Iranian soil.

So I suppose the Iranians can threaten but they're deepening their own isolation. And I would just say that when the international community speaks and says that a member state must do something, then the international community has to be credible about that demand. Now, we will return to the Security Council after the report of the IAEA Board of Governors, after the report of Dr. ElBaradei, and we will consider what steps to take next. But we can't have another presidential statement, particularly in light of Iran's continued defiance of the international norms.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAKOYANNIS: The issue of Iran's nuclear (inaudible) coordinate within the European Union and decisions should be taken at the level of the Security Council. We are in the middle of a diplomatic effort, a diplomatic effort to which still has some tools to use in order to become effective.

QUESTION: Mrs. [sic] Secretary, since the discussions about Iran, if you don't exclude any measures of operations in Iraq (inaudible) and if that's the case, are you going to ask or have you already asked for the Greek facilities in some kind of operations -- American operations in Iran? And do you also ask about the support of the Greek Government in the Security Council, a positive vote of what measures are going to be taken?

SECRETARY RICE: A positive vote in the Security Council for -- in general?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Ah, I see. First of all, let me go right to the crux of the question: The United States of America understands and believes that Iran is not Iraq. The Iraq circumstances had a special character going back for 12 years of suspended hostilities after a war of aggression which Saddam Hussein himself launched and in which those hostilities continued for that period of 12 years.

Now, the United States President doesn't take any options off the table. But we are on a diplomatic course here. That is the agenda that we are pursuing. That is the agenda that the Foreign Minister and I discussed. We discussed how to give weight to the diplomatic efforts that the Security Council is engaged in.

By the way, it is the European Union-3, with the backing of the European Union as a whole, that has been the centerpiece of trying to get the Iranians to accept a reasonable negotiated solution to their need for civil nuclear energy, if that is indeed what they want. And so the agenda is to reinforce our diplomatic efforts. We had a presidential statement in the Security Council. I think we are going to have to take a next step. It seems quite logical that one should consider a resolution under Chapter 7 of the Security Council's mandate. What that resolution will require, we will see. But we are on a diplomatic course. That was the agenda. I most certainly did not raise facilities for anything because that's not on the agenda. The agenda is how to reinforce our diplomatic efforts to get Iran to finally comply.

MR. MCCORMACK: Next question. Glenn Kessler, Washington Post.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, with your talks here in Greece and also later in Turkey, have you and will you raise concerns about Gazprom becoming involved in the Greek-Turkish pipeline? And can you speak more generally about U.S. concerns about Europe's energy security possibly being held hostage by Russia and the U.S. efforts to promote an alternative pipeline route from Azerbaijan?

And to the Foreign Minister, how concerned are you about Russia's control of your energy supplies?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Glenn, the first point to make is that energy security and diversification is not just a concern of the United States; it is an expressed concern of the European Union that there be energy security and energy diversification. In fact, I understand that this has been a subject for discussion in the European Union because multiplicity of supply as well as, by the way, diversification away from hydrocarbons in general to alternative fuels is also very important.

We do know that there are discussions about alternative pipelines, about ways to bring gas from places like Azerbaijan. We are supportive of those. But I have to emphasize that this is not something that the United States is pressing; this is something that European themselves are very concerned about. And by the way, we are concerned about our own diversification as is exhibited in the President's energy program and bill that he has put before the American people and elements of it of which have gone to Congress.

So there is going to be a very strong emphasis for all of us on energy security. It's quite obvious that when you have the kind of demand growing around the world with big economic powers growing -- developing powers in places like China and India, that it is going to be critical to have energy security. We're going to discuss it at the G-8. I suspect they're going to continue to discuss it in the European Union and we certainly did discuss it here today in the bilateral discussions with Greece and I would expect to do the same when I'm in Turkey.

QUESTION: Did you raise Gazprom?

SECRETARY RICE: We talked about energy diversification. It's quite clear that one of the concerns is that there is a -- there could be a monopoly of supply from one source only, from Russia. But it's broader than just the question of monopoly supply from Russia. It's a question of diversification of energy supply in general.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAKOYANNIS: As you're aware, Greece is recently becoming an energy center and this is very important for this country. We need to have diverse sources of energy both in the country and throughout Europe. We are very interested in our pipeline, Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, oil pipeline. We have another pipeline that would bring natural gas from Turkey to Italy.

And at this point, I should like to highlight the important role that Greek shipping can play. We have a very modern fleet that can transport both oil and gas from many suppliers. So throughout the world and in Europe an effort is underway to diversify the sources of energy, always in relation to the price of energy which we consume.

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, you talked about Turkey. Do you believe that Turkey can proceed to Europe without having resolved the Cyprus issue and without resolving the issue of northern Cyprus with all airports and ports being closed to Cypriot shipping?

SECRETARY RICE: (Inaudible) European Union. We know that there are requirements that need to be met and we have engaged both Europe and Turkey to encourage -- we're not members of the European Union, we don't have a vote, but we have encouraged that that union take place because Turkey is a European country. It should have this European perspective.

As to the work that remains to be done before that accession, there is considerable work that remains to be done and, of course, issues concerning Cyprus are among the work that needs to be done. We do believe that there needs to be goodwill and effort by Turkey, but there also needs to be goodwill and effort by Cyprus. Because at the time that Cyprus, as a still-divided island, acceded to the European Union, I think there was an understanding that Cyprus would do nothing to -- certainly do nothing to block Turkey's accession and indeed would work actively if the European Union decided that Turkey should accede, to see that take place.

And so we're encouraging all parties: Turkey to do what it must on the outstanding Cyprus issues; but Cyprus also to do what it can to ease the isolation of northern Cyprus and to act responsibly in trying to complete the elements that would lead to Turkey's accession, which consider to be very important. And we also appreciate the constructive attitude that Greece has taken concerning Turkey's European perspective.

Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAKOYANNIS: Thank you.

2006/T12-3

ENDS


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