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27 February, 1998
Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday reiterated Greece's firm position regarding a "step-by-step" approach to Greek-Turkish relations, saying that "the problems between the two countries stem from Ankara's unacceptable demands and pressures".
He told an off-the-agenda parliamentary debate on foreign policy that "Greece does not discuss, in any manner, its sovereign rights" and rejected the idea of an overall political negotiation.
Mr. Simitis said that an important element of this approach, as outlined in the Greek proposal, "is recourse to the International Court of Justice at The Hague for the delineation of the (Aegean) continental shelf", which, he said, "is the only issue between the two countries that requires settlement, and would decisively contribute to normalization of the situation".
The cornerstone for normalization of Greek-Turkish relations was international law, "which Ankara is obliged to respect since", Mr. Simitis said, "international law, the internationally judicial bodies and a peaceful settlement of differences, are the basic prerequisites for the shaping of a new era in relations with Turkey".
Mr. Simitis recalled the EU decisions at the Luxembourg summit where, he said, "it was deemed, at the present stage, that it was not feasible for Turkey to be included on an equal status with the other candidates".
With respect to both its participation in the European Conference and to the framework of its relations with the EU, the European Union's 15 member states "called on Turkey to align itself with European values and principles (which) are the framework of commitments concerning peace, security, good neighborly relations, the need for respecting the integrity and inviolability of external borders, and also the principles of international law", Mr. Simitis said.
He added that it had been stressed that recourse to The Hague was "the most suitable means of settling differences".
At the same time, he said, respect for the accession prospects of other states was also set as a condition for a country's participation in the European Conference, "and in this way Turkey was called on to accept Cyprus' accession course".
Mr. Simitis further cited the Luxembourg decisions concerning Turkey's European vocation as outlined in April 1997 by the EU-Turkey Association Council, which called on Turkey to continue the process of democratization and respect for human rights, good and stable relations with Greece and the settlement of differences mainly through The Hague, and a constructive stance regarding a solution to the Cyprus issue within the framework of the UN resolutions.
The premier told Parliament that the Madrid communique, which he signed last summer with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, aimed at making Turkey accept the rules of international law and the international treaties. The result was, as he said, that Ankara was exposed with its actions.
Mr. Simitis also noted that in 1993, Greece had acknowledged the general jurisdiction of the International Court, "but, being aware of Ankara's aggressiveness, we stipulated a specific reservation with respect to issues of defense and security".
"We call on Ankara to follow suit," he added.
Turning to the Cyprus issue, Mr. Simitis said that Greece supported the UN's efforts and would continue to cooperate closely with the new government in Cyprus, providing every possible assistance so that its negotiations for accession to the EU would be successfully concluded.
Mr. Simitis also said that Cyprus "has every right to organize its defense", adding that Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides' proposal for demilitarization or gradual disarmament of the island republic "is in the right direction, and Turkey's refusal is another instance of its intransigence".
The premier expressed the hope that Ankara "will weigh the situation more calmly, abandoning its threats -- such as annexation of the Turkish-occupied territory -- and realize that the accession of a unified Cyprus into the EU would also be to the benefit of the Turkish Cypriots".
Greece's role in the broader region:
Speaking on developments in the region since 1989, Mr. Simitis said the government's policy was aimed at upgrading Greece's position in the wider region and at having a broader role in international decision-making centers.
In that framework, he said, Greece was developing initiatives of friendship and cooperation in the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean. He cited the 34 agreements signed between Greece and those countries.
Turning to NATO and its role after 1989 Mr. Simitis said:
"It must be made clear that NATO is not an administrative body, it does not exercise sovereignty on behalf of its member countries. Every state reserves the right and responsibility to assume its sovereign responsibilities in the framework of collective defense."
"The basic principles of the new NATO structure are collective defense, support missions for peace and stability, and in that context, the NATO headquarters have been reduced from 65 to 20, with strategic regional and sub-regional commands. In the southern sector, which involves our country, the installation of a regional headquarters in Naples is provided for, with two branch regional airforce and naval headquarters in Italy and four inter-branch subregional headquarters in Madrid, Verona, Larissa and Izmir," Mr. Simitis explained.
He said it had been decided in 1992 that the regulations of the new structure will not have determined limits of operational control, and consequently Greece "has not conceded anything".
He pointed out ever since 1980, headquarters had been decided upon yet never established.
Greece, he said, would participate practically and on an equal basis for the first time in all the NATO activities, and consequently new prospects were opening up in the traditional area of collective defense as well as in the area of European identity, security and defense.
Source: Athens News Agency