George A. Papandreou - President of Socialist International - Former Prime Minister
George A. Papandreou - President of Socialist International - Former Prime Minister
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Interview by Foreign Minister Mr. G. Papandreou at Belgrade

Belgrade, 12 March 1999

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Giorgos Papandreou:  Thank you very much. I would like to begin by stating the purpose of my trip here. I have been on a tour of the region of the South-Eastern Europe, the Balkans countries, in Skopje, Tirana, Sofia, Bucarest, now in Belgrade. This mission is a mission to promote peace, it is a mission to promote human rights, the mission to promote stability in the region. I believe, Greece believes that we need strong cooperation in the region and that this cooperation is the only way to develop a voice for the South-Eastern part of Europe, a voice which will be in the interest of all. It is the only way to create a multicultural South-Eastern Europe where we will respect each other's differences, but will also see these differences not as a fear but as a basis for a strong resource of creativity, of dynamism, and of development. We all have a common goal in this region, I believe, a common vision. And I think that this is something of a historical opportunity for us that all are looking for becoming further integrated into the large family of Europe, and particularly of European Union, but not only the European Union but all the Euro-Atlantic structures. And this common vision is something that historically units us at this time. And this should help us in overcoming differences. But these differences must be overcome with respect to very specific principles. I would say European values, european principles, such as the territorial integrity and no changes of borders, and this is a very european principle.

The question of respecting human rights and minority rights, and the question of peaceful cooperation and the peaceful solutions to any possible conflicts. In discussing with my counterparts in the Balkans everyone was quite worried about the situation in Kosovo. This is a situation which will affect us all. Depending on how Kosovo will be solved we will change the fate of this region. If it is solved in a peaceful way, according to the principles that I have stated, there will be a new phase in the region, and I think there will be a new phase for Yugoslavia in the world, in World organizations, European organizations: If we move into a conflict, a military clash and confrontation, this will bring the whole region back many decades. And this is a common concern. It is not a current concern simply for the Albanians and the Serbs. It is a concern for all of us in the region. My message here in Yugoslavia was a message to a country with which we had traditionally very close and friendly relations. And in that spirit I believe that I had a very honest discussion, very open and sincere discussion both with Minister Jovanovic, earlier with Mr. Draskovic, and, finally, with President Milosevic. I stressed the importance of the need to sign the political solution. I cannot speak for President Milosevic or for Yugoslavia, but I can tell you that I believe that, and having also been in Tirana, I believe that the makings of the political solution are there, and that is the hopeful sign. I believe that the terms of the political solution are there and the sides seem to be ready to be able to accept this basis. On the other hand, there are differences on how this will be implemented, how this will be guaranteed, the implementation force itself. This is where we are. And it is a very delicate moment, and as I said a historical moment and I do hope that in a few days in Paris we will be able to come out all of us triumphant, all of us feeling that we have won something in this region, that we have not lost, that neither side has lost. But all the peoples in this region have won peace, the prospect of cooperation, the prospect of stability with the inviolability and not-changing boarders which is a very precarious issue; and that we can move on to what we wont to move on to: cooperation in financial, political, cultural terms, working together to integrate more fully into Europe.

Thank you. That is my introductory statement. I will be glad to take questions.

M. Hatzaras:  I would like you to state your name and the name of the paper or the station you are representing.

S. MCGUIRES from Reuters:  Mister Foreign Minister did Mr. Milosevic give you any indication that he was willing to accept the military part of the peace deal.

Giorgos Papandreou:  As I said, I think this is where the question lies right now. I think we have no change in this, on this issue. There will be some necessary delicate negotiations on this point for the finalization of the agreement. Let me just add something that I forgot to mention. In my meetings in the capitals a momentum developed for an initiative begenning from this region. As you know there is a South-Eastern cooperation, it is called the South-Eastern European initiative. It includes Greece, Turkey, Bulgarie, Rumania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, and Yugoslavia. The Romanian Government, Mr. Plesu, is now presiding in the rotating Presidency, and I asked him after I discussed with my colleagues, that he takes an initiative to call all Foreign Ministers from these Balkan countries to come up with a declaration for stability and cooperation in the region, based on the principles I mentioned earlier. He is doing so and I hope that he will be successful. I have talked with everyone and there has been in principle agreements, although there are some differences in the approache. I do hope that we can show the world, in this region, that we are responsible for our fate and can also contribute to cooperation and peace in this region.

Misa VIDIC - B92:  Can you tell us what is the stance of your country in considering the implementation of the agreement about Kosovo? And the other question please: Since Belgrade refused yesterday to talk with members of neighbouring countries, considering this initiative you were talking about, how will you comment that?

Giorgos Papandreou:  Beginning with the second part of the question and talking today with President Milosevic and Mr. Jovanovic I saw that there was in principle agreement for cooperation on this initiative. Certainly… The terms of this possible meeting - there were questions on this . And I asked just a few minutes ago the Political Director of Mr. Plesu to elaborate on the specifics of a possible statement and a possible initiative so that we can discuss about that with our Yugoslav counterparts, but not only our other colleagues in the Balkan region also. So, it's gaining momentum we will see if it can be successful. I think, though, that whatever the outcome of this is there is a common desire that we work together to make sure that there is a peaceful (political) solution. It would be a tragedy in this region if we end up with a clash, we end up with a conflict.

Now, on the specifics. I think that you know the two positions quite well, and the two sides, the Albanians on the one side believe that a political solution must be guaranteed by a force which is at least NATO led. This for them is a guarantee that it will be implemented. On the other hand, on the Yugoslav side there is a belief that there is no need for a propice (?), for peace troops , for the implementation through foreign presence of a peacekeeping force, and that this implementation can be carried through through the extension of the Kosovo Verification Mission, through political means and through the existing structures, now, in Yugoslavia. Obviously there is a big difference. I think that all that we can say is that we find a solution here, and that we don't get caught up with this issue when we have the makings of a political solution already there. It would be a tragedy if we have the makings of the political solution, on the one hand, and we cannot, and we come into a clash because we don't have the ability to find the way to implement it, which would be agreed by all. So, my hope is that we can move to find the means that would be accepted by all for implementing this agreement.

Thank you.

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