J.-M. AYRAULT: I am very pleased to be meeting with my colleague and friend, Nikos Kotzias, whom I see regularly at the EU Council of Foreign Ministers. We were together on Monday, in Luxembourg, and the times before that in Brussels.
We obviously talked about the bilateral relations between France and Greece, and you remember that famous slogan (Greece-France alliance) – I think that is a phrase that sums up our relations.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was in Paris last week, to meet with President Hollande. France hopes for the success of Greece, a brave country that has committed to major reforms to change its economic situation. These reforms are starting to bear fruit, entailing a real cost for the Greek people, but highlight Greece’s strong bond with Europe. So it is important for Europe to show solidarity with Greece in the context of the latter’s efforts. This is France’s view, I reiterated it to Nikos a short while ago.
We also know that Greece is facing major difficulties with regard to the hosting of the refugees and that the agreement with Turkey was necessary. It is in the process of being implemented, with a commitment from France to support the Greek efforts. Together with Germany we have decided to offer our assistance in the form of personnel – this is specific assistance – that will enable Greece to vet all of the applications for asylum on an individual basis. Greece has brought in reforms to its justice system: The Hellenic Parliament passed legislation quickly with regard to the asylum processes and the processes for appeals, so that international law can be respected.
The EU-Turkey agreement is being implemented within the framework of international law, with major commitments on matters of readmission and relocation.
But as concerns France, we are committed to helping Greece with regard to hosting refugees on our territory, through the relocations taking place. Every day, new refugees reach France and are hosted here, which is a specific support. We are committed to doing this and are doing it.
Nikos and I talked about a number of issues, and the last is Syria. We had the opportunity to ascertain our convergence on a peacemaking process. War is not an option. The ceasefire that has been declared must be fully respected. Today, the major problems in the region around Aleppo, on the part of the regime, can jeopardize the ceasefire. It is important for there to be respect for the ceasefire from all sides. I said this yesterday, as well, on the opportunity of my visit to Moscow, to Vladimir Putin and to my counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. Because it is also very important for the humanitarian aid to reach all of the affected populations and for the peacemaking process to be completed. It is difficult, but it is the only path. It is in this direction that we, Greece and France, must coordinate our efforts.
We also talked about other issues in the sector of bilateral cooperation, in the sector of culture, education, research and innovation. France and Greece are partners. They are friends, because we share the same values. It is these values that have led us to believe in Europe. Nikos told me that he believes in Europe as I do, even if Europe has flaws and may sometimes disappoint us. It is a commitment to joint resolution of the problems of Europe, helping, initially, each country deal with its own difficulties through solidarity, whether these difficulties are financial, economic, or related to migration. We also talked about other issues, but I would simply like to address you regarding the substance of these issues.
We talked about Cyprus, Ukraine, but I think it was important for us to put into a few words the substance of what we discussed, which I am sure will be followed by others, given that we meet at least once a month, or more if necessary.
N. KOTZIAS: “Greece-France alliance” is also expressed by the good weather in Paris today. The Minister and I discussed the major problems facing our region and Europe, the major crises, economic and geopolitical. We talked about Ukraine, Syria, Libya, countries in which the role of France and of the EU is very important, so that there can be peace and different social and economic development. I invited the Minister to Greece and I will receive him with pleasure in Athens. Athens is always pleased to be visited by the French spirit. Greece and France have a strategic relationship that will also be expressed in the cooperation Roadmap that is being formulated. We support the French initiative for the Middle East, because peace in the Middle East means peace and stability for all of us.
The Minister and I talked about the economic crisis that is putting great pressure on my country. We again expressed our gratitude to the French leadership for the solidarity they are showing with Greece. Solidarity, understanding, not just on the economic issues, but also on the refugee issue. Regarding the need for the EU agreements and decisions to be implemented. We talked about our bilateral relations, which are developing significantly on matters of research, education, know-how, economy, investments. We are the Greece of ancient civilization, which is always timely; we are in the France of the Enlightenment. Finally, we referred to the initiatives Greece is taking in its region, from tomorrow’s meeting with the other Balkan countries, regarding cross-border cooperation problems, to our initiative for holding a Conference on stability and security in the Eastern Mediterranean.
France always has an open invitation to our country and to our Conferences and to our heart. Jean-Marc, thank you very much for our talks and for the cooperation we have here and in all the European organs.
J.-M. AYRAULT: Perhaps few people know that Greece is a member of the International Organisation of La Francophonie, and thus I want to welcome this commitment. I remind you that there is a French-Greek school with 1,600 students. It is an old school that I think symbolizes French-Greek relations. Thank you, Nikos, for your visit, and until we meet again.
JOURNALIST (ANA-MPA): Did today’s talks allow, in a specific manner, for the bilateral relations between the two countries to move ahead? Mainly on the issue of the Roadmap, which I think is to be signed in June, are there specific items, for example in the sector of the economy or in other sectors?
J.- M. AYRAULT: It is a little early for us to release the content of the Roadmap, which is still in the preparation stage. That is why we are talking about a visit, with the invitation I received from Nikos just before these statements to the press. And besides, the Prime Minister will be visiting Greece. We are working for something specific, solid and enduring.
JOURNALIST (Reuters): Does France intend to ask for an emergency meeting on the Syria issue?
J. – M. AYRAULT: In Moscow, I had the opportunity to discuss the prospect of convening an emergency meeting of the Monitoring Group, and I said that France is prepared for such a meeting of the Monitoring Group on the ministerial level, if need be. Moreover, it is an issue that will be discussed in a few days in Hanover, given that, as you know, the French President will be in Hanover, on the occasion of President Obama’s visit. There will be a discussion with Germany, Great Britain and Italy, during which the Syria issue will certainly be discussed.