Exclusive! The speech by Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs in the American Congress


House International Relations Committee Hearing Room,

September 26, 2006, 18.30-21.00

Honourable Members of Congress,
It is my pleasure to be here tonight, in the heart of American
Democracy. It is also a great honour to have the opportunity to
meet you in this wonderful room, the House International Relations
Committee Hearing Room, which carries such significance in the
minds of us, Greeks. From this room, the voice of the American
people supporting our struggle for freedom and democracy was
heard during the difficult years of the dictatorship in Greece. Back
then, for those in exile, like my family, this voice provided an
important source of moral support, and constituted a source of
optimism for the future.
Greece and the US are incredibly long strategic and ideological
partners. The Founding Fathers of this nation were inspired by
Greek ideals, and the ideals of the American Revolution inspired, in
their turn, the Greek Revolution a few years later.
We stood always on the side of liberty together; throughout the
twentieth century Greece was one of only three countries in the
world, beyond the former British Empire, that allied with the United
States in every major international conflict. Today we still work
closely together for a stable and prosperous European South-East
and we cooperate in facing almost every major global challenge,
from Afghanistan to natural disasters. We are close allies and the
scope of our cooperation is significant in the economic field too.
Greece is a natural strategic partner of this great country: it is the
largest economy in the European South-East; the largest merchant
marine in the world;
Our country enjoys a geo-strategic position at the crossroads of
three continents, a fact which invites both strategists and economic
planners to strike fruitful bargains with it. We now work very hard
with the US to greatly expand our cooperation in all fields.
The support of Congress for Greek issues continues to this day and,
for this, I would like to extend to you my heartfelt thanks. I know
that, for a good number of years, a numerous group of
Representatives have formed the “Hellenic Caucus” that is very
active and very helpful; I would like to extend to them my deepest
appreciation for their support. I would also like to thank you for all
the Resolutions regarding a peaceful and just resolution of the
Cyprus problem, stability in the Aegean, human rights and the
unhindered function of the Patriarchate in Istanbul. I am thankful
also for all the relevant correspondence you have exchanged with
the Administration concerning these issues.

Honourable Members of Congress,

I would like to take the opportunity today to briefly draw your
attention upon a set of issues which we consider to be of utmost
importance. These issues may vary in their geographical
parameters and scope, yet they have one thing in common: they
are all about promoting peace, stability and prosperity.
Let me begin with the crisis in the Middle East; a part of the world
that preoccupies us all. I would like to start off by saying that
Greece shares with the United States the vision of expanding
freedom, democracy and human rights in this area of historic
importance for my country. Indeed, over the years, Greece has
managed to forge credible links with Israel, the Palestinians, and
the Arab world in general. As a result we enjoy close relations with
all countries and peoples in the region.
We believe that it is the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live
in separate states within secure borders which should be clearly
recognized; I also believe that the peace process aimed at resolving
the problems between Israel and the Arabs in general should be
Greece, Presiding over the UN Security Council for the month of
September, worked hard for peace and stability in the Middle East.
Our efforts, I am proud to say, culminated in a extraordinary
meeting of the Security Council on a ministerial level – the first of
its kind in more than 22 years – where we had the chance to
discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict in general and the Palestine issue in
South East Europe is another region which is of utmost strategic,
political, and economic interest to us. It is also a region in which
Greece plays a pivotal role. The Balkans have often been
characterized as a region under EU influence – as “Europe’s back

Yet the Balkans and South East Europe in general, are an area in
which the EU and the US work alongside one another,
complementing each other, and sharing the same vision for the
future of the region.
Greece’s strategic goal in the Balkans is to create the preconditions
for stability, functioning democratic processes and institutions,
intra-state cooperation, development and prosperity, as well as the
fulfillment of the political criteria which will allow all Balkan
countries to eventually become members of the EU and NATO.
Indeed, European integration, and the prospect of EU membership
is the single strongest soft power mechanism for engaging these
countries in reforms, for consolidating democracy and for making
their institutions more efficient and compatible with European
norms and standards. I would like to draw your attention
particularly to Kosovo, which makes, and will continue to make,
headline news as it redefines itself.
For Kosovo, we need to devise a win/win solution; a lasting and
sustainable solution, which will have the support, or at least the
consent, of both Belgrade and Pristina. We want to see a solution
for Kosovo based on the fundamental principle of respect for
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Turkey, the largest country of South Eastern Europe is, naturally,
also a concern of ours. Our bilateral relations with Turkey are set on
a new track in the last few years. Cooperation covers a wide
spectrum of fields, expands steadily and helps improve the political
climate between the two countries.
However, Turkey’s military activity in the Aegean is a cause of
serious concern to Greece and hinders our efforts to pursue our
policy of rapprochement.
Another thorn in our, and of course the EU’s, relations with Turkey,
is that country’s stance towards the Greek-Orthodox Ecumenical
Patriarchate in Istanbul. Despite the fact that the Patriarch is the
spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians in the United
States and throughout the world, the Turkish government refuses to
recognize the Ecumenical character and historical rights of the
Patriarchate, as the Head of the world’s Orthodox Christians instead
of merely a local Prelate. That poses a series of grave problems
pertaining to the election of a Patriarch, the training of the Orthodox
clergy and others.

This is why it is of utmost importance that Turkey be convinced to
change its policies by accepting the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s
international recognition and ecclesiastic authority, by recognizing
the right to train its clergy of all nationalities, and by reaffirming the
property rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The re-opening of
the Halki Seminary, which has bipartisan support in the US, should
also be addressed.
It is important to stress that the respect shown to the Ecumenical
Patriarchate and to its rights, is to the benefit of Turkey herself. It
can help demonstrate not only that Turkey is a country
safeguarding the freedom of religion, but also the importance of
Turkey as the home of Christianity’s second largest denomination.
On our part, we reaffirm our political will to work towards
consolidating relations of friendship and cooperation with Turkey,
based on the full respect of international law and good neighborly
relations. Indeed, Greece actively supports Turkey’s European
orientation. We believe that her European perspective can be
conducive to regional peace and stability. Nevertheless, it is now
high time for Turkey to prove, in practice, that she can and really
intends to conform to the institutional, political and economic acquis
of the EU. We hope that she will take all necessary steps in order to
fully meet the criteria and the obligations stemming from her
European perspective.
This is a prerequisite which all countries wishing to join the Union,
including Greece, have been asked to fulfill.
Last but not least, the Cyprus issue is naturally linked with our
relations with Turkey, yet it retains its strong independent
character. Our government remains steadfastly committed to
reaching a just and viable solution for the reunification of Cyprus.
The principles that must guide us in seeking a fair, functional, and
viable solution are clear: full consideration of all the work done by
the UN; international law, and all the relevant Security Council
Resolutions. Last, but not least, the acquis communautaire; we
cannot overlook the fact that Cyprus is now a full member of the
European Union and that both Greek and Turkish Cypriots are going
to live in the European framework.
Any initiatives that consolidate the separation of the island, by
leading to political upgrading of the illegal regime in northern
occupied Cyprus, are counterproductive to the efforts of
reunification. We take the view that any new initiative will have to
be carefully prepared, so as to ensure real chances for success. Our
ultimate goal remains a mutually agreed and certainly not an
imposed solution between the two parties.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Greece is, I believe, a pole of stability, peace, and development in
South East Europe. Being the only member of both the European
Union and NATO in the region, we actively participate in
consolidating democracy, peace and stability, the rule of law and in
promoting economic prosperity throughout the region.
Today, we are united in the fight against terrorism, in its multitude
of forms. We may at times approach this battle differently, yet
ultimately, we have a common goal: freedom and the right to live in
peace. We have gone a long way in Greece in fighting internal
terrorism. In the fight against terrorism, Greece undertook
sweeping actions, both to eradicate domestic terrorist networks and
to provide wide-ranging assistance in the various fronts of the war
on terror. We are an ally of the United States and, moreover, we
believe that we are a valuable ally.
This is why Greece’s participation in the Visa Waiver Program, which
allows citizens from 27 countries to visit the United States as
tourists without visas, is of utmost importance for the Greek
It is our sincere conviction that Greece’s inclusion in the VWP will
constitute the missing link to an already far-reaching bilateral
relationship. Participation in the VWP will strengthen and cement
the security partnership of the United States with a longstanding
friend and ally. It will facilitate short-term business travel and
enhance tourism between the two countries. In addition, it will be a
source of pride for millions of Americans of Greek decent, making it
easier for them to welcome their Greek relatives in the United

Distinguished Members of Congress,

As you can see from my brief overview, we consider Greece a key
player, a key ally, and a longstanding friend of the United States.
We stand solidly and with determination to our deeply held
principles and beliefs, defending our ideas and doing our utmost to
promote democracy, the rule of law, prosperity, and freedom. We
stand united with our European partners, in our efforts to make our
world a more prosperous, socially just, and safer place to live.
Thank you.

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