© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
06 April, 1999
Prime Minister Costas Simitis last night stressed that Athens' actions must proceed in cooperation with other NATO members, although contact with Yugoslavia is also necessary.
He was speaking in a televised address to the nation regarding the worsening situation in Kosovo.
"Our actions must proceed in cooperation with the other NATO states and in contact with the Serbs. Otherwise, the only thing we will accomplish is to alienate ourselves from all parties involved," he said.
Greece has stated from the very beginning that it will not get involved in military operations, Mr. Simitis reiterated.
"...Because we are neighbors with Yugoslavia. Because we want a political solution. From the very first day, we have declared that Yugoslavia must provide a wide-ranging autonomy to Kosovo's residents. Yugoslavia must respect their human rights and promote a peaceful settlement of differences. We condemn the policy of ethnic cleansing followed by Serbia."
"Any fear by Greece is unjustified. We will not get involved in military confrontations. Greece belongs in a zone of stability and in Europe's power structure. It remains in this zone," he said, adding: "We are against any act that could lead to a change of borders in the Balkans."
"We will ensure a future of development, stability and prosperity for our country if we preserve our sensible course of cooperation with the other EU and NATO countries, as well as the course of understanding and contact with the Balkan countries," he added.
Mr. Simitis said the "Greek government has acted both within NATO's framework and that of the European Union for the effective confrontation of the refugee problem."
Regarding the refugee crisis, he said decisions taken over the past few days are the "result of our initiatives."
"As far as we are concerned the basic aim should be for the refugees to remain near their country of origin. All European Union member-states are obliged to contribute according to their strength and ability."
"We pay special attention to the issue of the Greek minority in Albania, to the protection of the property of the Greek ethnic minority in that country. Albania's leadership has reassured us that its (Greek ethnic minority) rights would not be infringed upon.
"The continuing use of military force cannot lead to a permanent solution. We repeatedly have proposed the examination of the possibilities of a peaceful dialogue. We are looking for a political solution, we demand respect for human life and we aim at re-establishing stability in the region. We are friends with the peoples who are suffering."
Mr. Simitis noted that Greece also lives with Turkey's aggressive behavior in the Aegean. "A large part of Cyprus is under Turkish occupation. In order to confront the dangers in the region, we must cooperate with the EU member-states and safeguard our role in NATO."
He also said Greece "is a country which has conquered, with struggles and sacrifices, peace, stability and economic and social progress. The Greek people demand we safeguard those achievements", he concluded.
Today, Mr. Simitis will have successive meetings with opposition party leaders, starting with main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis and Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga.
Following these talks, the premier will have separate meetings with former Prime ministers.
Also today, Mr. Simitis will meet with National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos to discuss the country's ongoing armaments program and tomorrow with the government's economic team.
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said later that Greece insisted that the problem in Kosovo could not be resolved through military means, but only through political dialogue.
"(We need) a peaceful solution which will aim at wide-ranging autonomy for Kosovo in the framework of the borders of Yugoslavia," Mr. Reppas said.
He said support for the position that no border changes be made was increasing among the allies.
The refugee problem is the most pressing factor now, he added, and Greece is prepared to contribute to relieving the human suffering.
He did not specify how many refugees Greece would accept, but said it would be "in proportion" and that the Council of Permanent Representatives to the European Union would discuss the issue.
Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis was likely to attend that meeting, he said. Greece was contributing two C-130 transport planes, on the request of Skopje, to ship refugees to countries which have said they will accept them, such as Norway.
Greece is also looking at how to provide humanitarian aid to Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, Mr. Reppas said.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides will be in Athens today to discuss Nicosia's contribution to the aid effort.
However, he said Greece would not under any circumstances agree to refugees being sheltered in the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus, as proposed by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Greece will deal with the issue of sending troops to a NATO relief force when the Alliance decides to increase the number of troops in Albania, he said.
Greece's troops in the neighboring country, part of a multinational peacekeeping force, have already contributed to the efforts to relieve the weight of the refugees, he said.
He ruled out Greece's participation in any ground operations, stressing that to date there had been no request to allow the transport of troops through its territory.
"The representatives of many governments have also ruled out the possibility of ground operations," he noted.
Referring to reported travel advisories issued by France, Italy and the Consular Information Sheet by the US, Mr. Reppas said the government had reacted strongly to the advisories.
"Our life here is proceeding completely normally, as we are not part of the problem and as such initiatives are completely uncalled for," he said.
"Greece is a force of stability in the region and consequently must bolster its role and should not be undermined," he said.
Athens protested over the inclusion of Greece in travel advisories issued by those countries, and urged that the warning be revoked in reference to Greece.
Foreign ministry sources said Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Sunday night instructed Greece's envoys accredited to those countries to lodge the relevant protests to exclude Greece from the travel advisories issued due to the Yugoslav crisis.
Referring to a recent wave of protests against the NATO bombings, Mr. Reppas said citizens of Greece had the right to freely express themselves, but also had to behave in a civilized manner and respect the opinions of others.
Source: Athens News Agency