A new era has dawned for Greece, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in his address to the 74th United Nations General Assembly meeting on Friday, adding that although the country is moving away from the ten-year economic crisis, it is fully aware of the volatility of the region around it.
After emphasizing the government’s commitment to fighting climate change, Mitsotakis said that “peace and security cannot exist in the absence of development,” and reiterated the government’s intention to introduce a strategic plan on energy, the environment and the climate. “We will protect our natural environment and its intangible cultural heritage,” the premier underlined.
The central message of his speech however focused on nations sharing the burden of migration and refugee flows, the burden of which Greece has had to handle alone throughout the migration movement of recent years, as the country at the EU borders and the forefront of refugee arrivals by sea. “We are one of the top four EU members in terms of migrant flows,” Mitsotakis noted, and “we have the highest per capita ratio of migrants in Europe.”
He said that Greece respected the human rights of migrants and refugees and would remain committed to them, “but we are reaching the limit of our ability” to deal with this issue, which is a European challenge. He reiterated his call “for comprehensive solutions and fair sharing of the burden.” As he pointed out, countries that enjoy the Schengen zone benefits cannot refuse to share the burden of migration, “a massive movement of fleeing people that Greece cannot bear alone.”
Mitsotakis expressed support for the EU-Turkey agreement, adding that Turkey needed to do much more and the EU needed to continue providing Turkey to deal with the thousands of refugees it was housing.
Speaking of relations with Middle Eastern countries and Turkey, the premier reiterated Greece’s commitment to good neighborhood relations, and said Greece’s role as a pillar of stability was to “actively support peace and security in the region.” Good neighborhood relations, however, need to include a full respect of international laws, including the Law of the Sea, and of international treaties.
On the Cyprus issue, he reiterated his support of Cyprus for a bizonal and bicommunal federation with a single international legal representation and a single citizenship, and said Greece is prepared to “repeat negotiations for the end of the 1960 System of Guarantees which is obsolete and outdated, and of the unilateral ‘rights’ of intervention,” while he called for the withdrawal of Turkish occupation forces from the island.
The Greek PM also stressed the aggressive behavior of Turkey in the Cyprus EEZ, and the illegal drilling Turkey carried out in the East Mediterranean, both in “blatant violations of international law,” including actions and statements towards reoperning Varosha under Turkish Cypriot administration. The UN Security Council decisions, he noted, “demand the return of all legal residents to Varosha under UN administration.”
In wrapping up his short address, Mitsotakis said that “we often criticise the UN, but it is the only bulwark we have, and the only beacon of hope” in resolving international conflicts.