Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ remarks before his meeting with graduate students of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University (Athens, 21.03.2023)
Athens, March 21, 2023
It is a pleasure to host you in the Foreign Ministry in this rather historical building. This is the Minister’s office. The history of the building is that it was the house of the richest Greek of the 19th century, so he donated it with the clause that it will always be the office of the Foreign Minister. And the room we are in is called the Kapodistrias Room. Kapodistrias, who is the gentleman over there, my compatriot from Corfu. He was the first Governor of Greece after our War of Independence. He has a colourful history, because his last job before that was as Foreign Minister of Tsar Alexander I. And he was quite instrumental in the Congress of Vienna, which “designed” Europe for the 19th Century.
So, I think the best way to conduct this is just to make a very brief opening statement and then answer your questions, and that would be, both for you and for me, much more interesting than a long speech.
I’ll start with the USA. There is no exaggeration to say that our relations with the USA are at an all-time high. I had the pleasure and the honour, as Minister, to sign two amendments to our Defense Agreement.
And apart from that, we had the pleasure of seeing and listening to my Prime Minister, Prime Minister Mitsotakis, addressing a joint session of Congress, and this was the first time for a Greek Prime Minister in our history. Secretary Blinken was here just a few weeks ago, sitting exactly where you sit right now.
I think we see with the USA eye-to-eye on most issues including Ukraine. On Ukraine we are taking a very principled stance. Our stance has to do with territorial integrity, sovereignty of all countries of the world, and equality of all countries of the world. So, although we had historical relations with Russia, for us it is a choice between black and white.
On Türkiye. With Türkiye we had many difficulties in the past. But after the earthquakes in Türkiye, we are living in a totally different reality. Just yesterday, I had a meeting with my Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in Brussels. We agreed on Türkiye supporting Greece in its bid for a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. I am sure you are aware of the functions of the Security Council, so you understand the symbolism of the gesture.
Reciprocally, Greece will support Türkiye for the post of Secretary-General in the International Maritime Organization taking into account that Greece has the largest commercial fleet in the world, Greek owned, not Greek-flagged; you understand again the symbolism of this gesture.
And in the wider region. We have a very close strategic relation with the State of Israel. Cyprus for us is very, very close, you understand why. We have close contacts with Egypt. Egypt is a very close friend and ally. We have very close contacts with the Gulf countries, the UAE, with which we have a Defense Agreement, Saudi Arabia, but also Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq.
And we are trying to have a beyond-the-horizon diplomacy, which means we are active in Africa and we are active in South America, we are active in India. And we are active, also, in the Indo-Pacific, because with many countries in the Indo-Pacific we share the same views on International Law and International Law of the Sea.
Again, we are a small or a mid-sized country, a member of the European Union, we don’t punch above our weight. Our foreign policy has a very clear rule: we are bound by International Law and the International Law of the Sea. That is what we are doing.
And I will be very happy to answer your questions.
Again, it was a great pleasure to host you and thank you for the opportunity.