29 August, 2008
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Thursday briefed Parlia-ment's relevant defence and foreign affairs committee, where she emphasised that Athens will meet all of the commitments and agreements it has signed before last week's crisis in Georgia.
"Agreements we had made before the outbreak of this very dangerous crisis are in force. Greece has never gone back on its word," Bakoyannis told MPs.
She also defended Athens' criticism of a controversial decision by Moscow to recognise the independence of the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, saying that, among others, this was an EU position clearly expressed by a French EU presidency announcement.
"We realistically recognised that this tense situation would have repercussions in NATO-Russia relations ... as an alliance we should have exploited all of the forces and channels of communication within the institutionalised NATO-Russia council," she added.
Moreover, she said Greece belongs to the group of countries that have continued over the years to support such dialogue, as well as the NATO-Russia and EU-Russia partnership.
"Our government developed particularly close economic and political relations with Russia. Of course, there are problems, but we must deal with them through dialogue."
Bakoyannis underlined that there was also a condemnation of Georgia's move into South Ossetia, saying the action violated previous agreements.
Referring to the Caucasus country's president, Mikheil Saakashvili, Bakoyannis said "he made several major mistakes and misread the situation, and we said this to the Georgians themselves."
Conversely, she said the affected territory is in Georgia, therefore, the Russian side's excessive response caused reactions amongst the international community.
The Greek FM also reminded that Athens bases its foreign policy on respect of international law, something consistently applied to a series of thorny issues, such as the Cyprus problem, Kosovo, Taiwan and others.
"We are neither in a Cold War nor in a post-Cold War period. The international community is experiencing the fluidity of a transitional period, with new developments, ones that signify a gradual transition to new balances," she said.
In reference to the nagging "name dispute" with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bakoyannis merely reiterated that Greece remains committed to the negotiations under UN mediator Matthew Nimetz.
However, Bakoyannis did not mince her words when referring to a recent "surge in irredentism, arrogance and (verbal) acrobatics" by the leadership in Skopje, adding that most of those comments are served up for internal consumption by the country's public opinion, "which, however, is slowly but steadily starting to realise that the country's isolation cannot lead to a prospect of prosperity for this people."
Finally, she emphasised that FYROM's Euro-Atlantic course is utterly linked with a resolution of the "name issue".
"If the name issue is solved, then Greece has no problem with (FYROM's) entry into NATO and the EU, because this irredentism is connected with the name issue."
Speaking for main opposition PASOK, former deputy foreign minister Andreas Loverdos said Georgia's attack on South Ossetia and Abkhazia was inspired by Washington, while he said the Greek government's support of the French EU presidency's decision to condemn Russia's "unilateral action" was correct.
"We are a country that has experience from the Cyprus problem, and it is necessary that we come out against unilateral actions," Loverdos said.
In terms of the "name issue", Loverdos said that Greece is obliged to re-evaluate its entire position "from the moment that Skopje's leadership does not wish to cooperate, but essentially ruins the talks by constantly piling on non-existent issues".
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