The Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, Giorgos Gerapetritis, during his speech. (TNH/Ch. Athanasatos)
NEW YORK – Approximately 24 hours before the crucial meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis delivered clear messages to Turkey during his speech before representatives of Greek-American organizations in New York.
Specifically, Gerapetritis, referring to the new, more positive trajectory that the two countries’ relations have been on since last February, as well as the multi-level bilateral dialogue that will take place in the coming months, made it clear that the territorial integrity of Greece is not up for discussion, setting the tone against the extreme voices of revisionism.
“A constructive dialogue can only be based on full respect for international law, including the Law of the Sea, sovereignty, and the territorial integrity of the two countries,” said Gerapetritis, adding that Greece’s consistent position is that dialogue within the framework of international law “is the only way to resolve any differences… Our biggest problem is the interpretation of maritime zones, especially the EEZ. Nevertheless, issues of national sovereignty will not be subject to dialogue.”
He emphasized that [territories] are in the country and will remain in the country forever,” and his speech was warmly applauded. Gerapetritis stated that the dialogue between Greece and Turkey will take place on three axes: the first is political dialogue, under Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexandra Papadopoulou, the second is the positive agenda [of commercial and cultural activities], under Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kostas Fragogiannis, and the third is Confidence-Building Measures, which will also be handled by experienced diplomats.”
He noted that, “we will have meetings in October and November. By the end of the year, we expect to have a high-level council in Thessaloniki and to sign a series of agreements by then,” emphasizing that the goal is to agree on the next steps in relations between the two countries.
Gerapetritis also referred to the Cyprus issue, making it clear in tone and substance that it remains for Greece, “a top priority in foreign policy and diplomacy.” Regarding the Western Balkans, he expressed the firm position that they should become part of the EU, but criticized Albania’s stance regarding the prolonged detention of Hellenic politician Fredi Beleri.
Addressing the attendees, Gerapetritis praised the Greek-American community, stating in both Greek and English, “you are the heart of Greece,” and emphasizing that that the Diaspora has contributed in various ways to strengthening Greek-American relations and, more broadly, to Public Diplomacy.
“Greek-American communities are a strong force on the international political scene; our Diaspora can be very supportive in public diplomacy. You are the most notable part of the so-called Greek ‘soft power’. Each of you is an ambassador of Greece. Your success is Greece’s success, and we are proud of your achievements,’ said Gerapetritis.
The Minister also referred to recent changes in Greece’s electoral law, which were proposed by the current New Democracy government and removed restrictions on voting from abroad. “Now it is a straightforward process for every Greek to vote from their place of residence; make use of the new law,” urged Gerapetritis, who also emphasized that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs intends to strengthen consular offices with personnel and resources for the best possible access and use by the Community.
The event commenced with greetings by Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, who welcomed the Minister of Foreign Affairs, stating, “we are very proud to have the opportunity to share this moment with Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis.” He also expressed gratitude for Greece’s support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Additionally, Elpidophoros stated that the Greek Orthodox community in America stands in solidarity with those affected by the devastating fires and floods in Greece, expressing sorrow for the lives lost and support for those who suffered losses due to natural disasters.
Mike Manatos, the Emcee, announced that 17 Greek-American organizations collaborated in organizing the event, noting also that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was unable to attend due to a change in his schedule caused by the catastrophic floods in Greece.
It should be noted that Gerapetritis requested, among other things, that the attendees observe a minute of silence for the five Greek military personnel and civilians who lost their lives in the tragic recent accident in Libya.
Present at the event were, among others, Papadopoulou, Fragogiannis, Consul General of Greece in New York, Dinos Konstantinou, Consul Dimitrios Papageorgiou, Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus, Evangelos Savvas, former U.S. Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt, Executive Director of HALC, Endy Zemenides, President of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) Nicholas Larigakis, publisher of the National Herald Eraklis A. Diamataris, publisher of the English-language The National Herald Vanessa Dimitraris, Senior Advisor at ALMA Bank, Nancy Papaioannou, and Executive Director of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce Alexandra Mitsakis.
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