Remarks With Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos Before Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
January 17, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m very pleased to welcome Greek Foreign Minister Venizelos here to Washington. We have met but we have not had a chance to be able to get together like this, and it’s my pleasure to welcome him here. I want to congratulate Greece on assuming the EU presidency, and we look forward very much to working with them in that role, but also in continuing the path towards economic recovery. We know that it has been very, very difficult. Tough decisions had to be made. It is never easy politically. Those choices were made, and I think it is improving. And step by step, we want to continue to not only work on that, but on our superb cooperation with respect to counterterrorism, the Balkans, the Middle East. There are a host of issues where we share common interests.

I do want to say one word quickly about the events that took place yesterday in Ukraine. The legislation that was rammed through the Rada without transparency and accountability violates all the norms of the OSCE and the EU. We believe deeply that the people of Ukraine want to affiliate and want to be associated with Europe and they want to turn in that direction. And the steps that were taken yesterday are anti-democratic, they’re wrong, they are taking from the people of Ukraine their choice and their opportunity for the future. So we will continue to stay focused on this issue, but this kind of anti-democratic maneuver is extremely disturbing and should be a concern to every nation that wants to see the people of Ukraine be able to not only express their wish but see it executed through the political process.

Mr. Minister, thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER VENIZELOS: John, thank you very much for this kind invitation. This is a great opportunity for me to discuss directly with you a few days after the official opening of the rotating presidency of Greece in the European Union, on the Council of the European Union. This presidency, historically speaking, the fifth after the Greek accession to the European family, is a great opportunity for Greece to show the face of an ordinary European country, of a country beyond the crisis. Without doubt, the main Greek national problem is the crisis, and the national reconstruction after this very tough experience of the recession and of the unemployment.

But on the field of the foreign and security policy, Greece is always a factor of stability for our area, for the Western Balkan, for the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. And on this basis we serve the same values, the same views, and we have the possibility to organize our further cooperation as friends and allies. Thank you indeed very much for this opportunity.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very, very much. Thank you.