Defense Minister Meimarakis in Washington: Greek-U.S. relations strategic and vital


Greece's Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis on Wednesday underlined the strategic nature and vital importance of relations between Greece and the United States in southeast Europe and the Mediterranean.

He was speaking at a Greek conference organised jointly by the Institute of Foreign Policy Analysis (IFPA), the Constantine Karamanlis Foundation and the Greek national defence ministry's Defence Analyses Institute on "A New NATO, Euro-Atlantic Security and the Greek-American Partnership".

"Climate change and movement of populations, attacks in cyberspace, energy security and the re-emergency of piracy compose the contemporary threat environment," Meimarakis said, painting the picture of a new and extremely uncertain global environment dominated by asymmetric threats, in which the relationship between Europe and the US remained the sole stable parameter.

In this context, he said that bilateral cooperation between Greece and the U.S. would not only maintain but actually increase its momentum, as was confirmed during recent meetings between U.S. President Barack Obama and Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, that between Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his own meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

On southeast Europe, Meimarakis said that Greece and the U.S. shared common interests and that Greece supports the EuroAtlantic prospects of all the western Balkans, on condition that they met the accession requirements.

Turning to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) and Greece's dispute with that country over the name 'Macedonia', Meimarakis stressed that this was a far from trivial issue but one intimately linked with the security and stability of the region as a whole.

He stressed that Greece's relations with fYRoM would be fully normalised once a solution to the name dispute was agreed, opening that country's path to NATO and the EU and boosting regional stability by confirming the spirit of reconciliation necessary between allied countries.

Greece's prime minister, himself a native of the Greek province of Macedonia, had agreed to accept a composite name for fYRoM that included the term 'Macedonia' - and incurred significant political cost at home - without any matching gesture from Skopje up to this time, Meimarakis added.

Regarding Turkey, the minister noted that despite continued Greek efforts to improve bilateral ties there had been little change on the Turkish side, which continued incursions into Greek airspace and territorial waters in the Aegean and maintained its 'casus belli' threat against Greece.

Finally, Meimarakis stressed Greece's contribution in the framework of NATO, such as its participation in operations like Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean or the peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan, as well as its role in the EU naval operation Atalanta against piracy at sea.

(Posting date 29 June 2009)

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