In joint statements following their meeting, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, inter alia stressed:
KOTZIAS: I welcome my friend Secretary of State John Kerry, with whom we work closely in the context and the spirit of the traditional bonds of friendship that join the two countries, and I also welcome him and hope we will see him again in the future, because he is a person who loves the sea and sailing, and the Greek islands. We will await him in the future.
Mr. Kerry is a great Secretary of State, distinguished for his rationality, his clear thinking and his realism.
He points up the contradictions and contrasts. John Kerry is the Secretary of State of a country where there is a large Greek community, the role of which as a bridge between Greece and the U.S. is well known.
We acknowledge the assistance of the U.S. during the recent negotiations with regard to the economic crisis, and we appreciate the open spirit of the United States of America as concerns the management of the debt – I would say, a constructive approach to resolving this problem.
Greece is an important player in the region. It is at the center of a triangle of instability, with Libya and Syria at the base and Ukraine at the top. And it is a stable country that also radiates stability in the region.
It is a country that knows and understands the region and can contribute to all kinds of negotiations, mediations and, if need be, to arbitration between opposing sides.
We know that the Syrian crisis, the war in Syria, is creating major problems. Greek foreign policy supports the Vienna process. It supports the political resolution of the Syrian issue, with a democratic constitution and with democratic elections. And it supports this not just in general terms, but also because a large part of the migration crisis is due to what is happening in Syria right now.
The repercussions of the Syrian crisis must be confronted with humanity and in cooperation with our neighbours, in accordance with all of the rules of international relations and international law.
In this framework, as we discussed, our priority is a political solution in Syria and support of countries receiving refugees, like Jordan and Lebanon, and support for the stability of the region and the line of Egypt, Sudan, Somalia.
And of course we believe that there must be a fair distribution of the burden arising from the migration crisis, and that there should be, first of all, for all of this to happen, an effective handling of terrorism and ISIS.
[…] We support all of the efforts of the talks on the Cyprus issue, which are being carried out under the mediating efforts of the UN.
We have stressed in every way that, in the 21st century, there cannot be a member state of the UN and the European Union that is subject to anachronistic systems like that of the guarantees and the presence of foreign troops.
We also discussed the issues of energy an investments, and I would like to say that it is always our wish – and we work to this end – for Greece and the U.S. to work together to the benefit of regional stability.
KERRY: Thank you very much, thank you. […] Thanks for the generous welcome here in Athens, the birthplace, obviously, of democracy. And it is particularly pleasing for me to be able to be here to reinforce the enduring alliance between our two countries.
We were talking about Boston, where I come from, we have a very large Greek American population there, as many of you know, and in many parts of America Greeks are continuing to make enormous contributions to the life of our country and they continue to express their deep ties and affection for their native country.
Put very simply, the United States-Greek relationship is really unbreakable. It is a good example of countries they can weather the storms together. There have been good moments and there are moments where there have been difficulties, as with any relationship.
But at its core our relationship is rooted in values and in deep ties of culture and family. And that gives our partnership a very special strength.
With my visit today I want to commend the resilience and the work of the Greek people. As you work your way out of the one of the worst economic crises in your history, Greece has opened its doors to refugees and migrants escaping the fighting in Syria and neighboring countries.
The United States is very proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as partners and as friends.
Everyday our countries stand together to address issues of regional stability, of trade and investment, and the diversification of energy resources, which is, in the end, a major strategic interest that we share. It is a security interest.
We stand together in the counter ISIS coalition. And I am absolutely convinced, based on decisions that President Obama has been making over the course of the last months, together with our allies, France, England just the other day in a vote in the Parliament, Germany in a vote in the Bundenstag, other countries in the region, the Gulf states, all of them have been stepping up in their commitment, which makes me certain that over the course of time we are absolutely going to defeat the Daesh and violent extremists.
We stand together here today and in the days preceding this and in the days ahead as NATO allies in the defense of the Euroatlantic area and wherever security is challenged from Afghanistan to Kosovo.
United States has been also proud to support Greece on its journey to economic recovery. And that has required very tough political choices and difficult sacrifices by the people of Greece.
We welcome the agreement that was reached this summer between the Greek government and European creditors, and the very hard work since then to implement it.
And I had a very good meeting a little while ago with the Prime Minister in which we discussed some of the needs in the road ahead for economic recovery.
Obviously more effort is necessary in the months ahead. But I am absolutely confident that Greeces leaders, will continue to implement the reforms that are necessary in order to restore competitiveness, to improve market confidence and to attract responsible investment.
Also, steps that are going to be necessary to maintain access to credit and to establish the foundation for job growth, for economic development, for a prosperous future. In that effort you can count on America’s continued support.
At the same τιμε we all know that in the 21st century countries have to look beyond their borders in order to carve out a strong position in the global market place.
It’s no longer satisfactory to trade within a nation or just within a few nations. It is a global market place and it is a competitive one. That is why the United States is enthusiastic about Greece’s growing role in European energy security. In particular we applaud the Greek government for moving forward on the Trans Adriatic Pipeline and the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector.
These are very important energy projects and they will not only strengthen Greece’s economy, but they will help advance regional stability and prosperity. And these projects will also create, I am confident, new opportunities for United States investment in Greece. And one of the priorities that Prime Minister Tsipras said to me today is he wants to see foreign direct investment which is the key to making up for the absence obviously available domestic funds because of the pressure that Greece has been under.
So, that is the way to do it, do projects like this energy development project and other projects. As the government takes further steps to improve the investment climate here, I guarantee you, we are going to do everything we can to help spread the word to our companies, that Greece is open for business.
And just as Greece takes steps to revitalize its economy this country is also on frontlines, obviously, of the refugee crisis.
Greece is working hard, under difficult circumstances I might add, to process arrivals from Syria and from other countries and to provide a much needed humanitarian assistance. I want to emphasize, this is not solely a Greek crisis. It’s not solely a European crisis, nor even a Middle East crisis, it is a global crisis, for which we must all share responsibility.
To that end we welcome the decision by the European Union to commit 3.1 billion dollars to assist Syrian refuges in Turkey. And we are committed to doing our part as well.
The United States, I am proud to say, is perhaps the largest donor to date to the refugee relocation issue, having put in more than 4.5 billion dollars in humanitarian assistance since the start of the Syrian civil war. And today I am pleased to announce that we will put another 24 million directly in additional assistance with UN High Commissioner for refugees.
And this new funding will support UNHCR’s activities here in Greece and the Balkans and in other immediately impacted parts of Europe, including it will help support the creation of reception facilities for refugees and migrants and the provision of lifesaving aid such as food, water, temporary shelter and health care.
We will also facilitate training visits to the United States by representatives from Asante as well as Almasar, and these are two groups [NGOs] that have been working here to educate migrants, and we will support and build on the remarkable work of Greek organizations like the one that I visited this morning downtown, the Melissa network.
I was just really very touched and moved by the women, and one young girl, who were working there in order to help migrants and refugee women integrate into Greek society or be able to find the help that they need as they move on to another country and another future.
Even with the best possible strategy though, my friends, the real solution to the refugee crisis for all of Europe is to bring the earliest possible end to the war in Syria.
And that is precisely the work that I and others have been engaged in over these last weeks with the two meetings that we held in Vienna and the work that we are doing now, to build on that, in order to try to rapidly bring the opposition to the table, to have negotiation with the Assad regime for the purposes of the transition to which we now have Russia and Iran at the table together with South Arabia and the Emirates and other Gulf countries, as well as European nations and United States.
And we are committed to try to accelerate this diplomatic initiative, to achieve a ceasefire and to press forward the political transition in Syria.
That is the single best way in which we cannot only resolve the problem of refugees, but frankly do the most to encourage the prosperity and the stability in this region and to be able to bring in a greater security to the citizens of this country and others.
We are going to do everything in our power and to push that over the course of the next several weeks.
The Prime Minister, Mr. Kotzias and I also discussed Greece’s role in the coalition today along with other regional issues on which we cooperate, and one of them, obviously, is Cyprus, where I just visited it, but also the Balkans and the implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement.
In all of the challenges that are faced by Greece, by the United States, by the world right now, I am absolutely convinced that our countries are going to remain close allies and friends.
And it was, after all I mean, you can pick almost any remarkable and well known piece of wisdom through the ages — they were left us by the great Greek philosophers and by history in this part of the world.
But it was Aesop who first advised us with a very simple piece of advice: United we stand and divided we fall.
And with that wise counsel in mind, let me make you clear that United States stands with Greece and I am confident that Greece and United States stand together with our European friends and other countries in this region in order to resolve the serious security challenges that we face at this point of time.
Photo: MFA Twitter