April 22, 1999
Following a report on the relationship between NATO members Turkey and Greece, Jim Lehrer discusses the air strikes in Yugoslavia with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou. He also talks with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel about the alliance's actions.
JIM LEHRER: And the Greek view... It comes from the foreign minister of Greece, George Papandreou
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Very nice to be here.
|A humanitarian mission?|
JIM LEHRER: First, do you agree that this is a conflict about humanitarian principles rather than politics?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well, there obviously important humanitarian issues in this whole conflict. I would say that what we are looking for and what we would like to see in the Balkans is a Balkan region which is very ropean, very much in the spirit of what our values are, multicultural. We have Serbs and Albanians that can live together. Greeks, Turks, Romanians, all the different... Bulgarians, all the different groups, there we can live in peace and be able to see that this is actually a very rich part of the world because we . . . our cultures are different cultures and different religions are not the basis for fear, but actually a basis for creativity, dynamism, and cooperation. And to do this, though, it really means that we have to... we have to create a very democratic societies that allow for pluralism and offer different views and different approaches to life. And that's, I think, the basis of what a humanitarian and humane society really is all about. With that, of course, we need to support growth, development. We're talking about some of the poorest regions in rope. Kosovo is the poorest region in rope. And that's one of the reasons why we have this conflict.
JIM LEHRER: But you heard what the Turkish president just said about what was going on in Kosovo at the hands of the Serbs. Do you agree? Is that view of what was happening on the ground, do you hold the same view?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Yes. We have been... we have condemned ethnic cleansing very strongly, and Greece has its own memories of this problem. We also have lived through what you might call ethnic engineering in Cyprus with our Turkish neighbor. We have been at loggerheads over the past 25 years where their invasion there actually created a new law. So we have actually two ethnically cleaned sections of Cyprus. One is officially recognized by the world, but the free side, which is the Greek side. And then the Turkish Cyprus side. We would like to see this become a bi-ethnic or intercultural society.
JIM LEHRER: But back to Kosovo.
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: yes.
JIM LEHRER: You can't solve the Cyprus. I didn't ask ...
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: No, you're right. Yes, it just happens to be in the region.
|The ground troops question.|
JIM LEHRER: But what is your view about the introduction of ground troops in the Kosovo conflict?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well, we have from the outset had reservations on the military actions of the bombing in Kosovo for basically two reasons. One was a question of how effective it would be. And secondly, the question that the spillover effects in the region. We're very close to the region--refugees, destabilization of our neighbors and so on, and economic ramifications. We, however, have been... we've gone along with the NATO consensus. Not only that, but despite this we have been very helpful in...
JIM LEHRER: Despite your reluctance, you mean?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Despite our reluctance, we have been giving logistical support. The city in northern Greece has given some logistical support to all the troops that went up to Skopje, the former republic of Macedonia, around 12,000 troops, logistical support to NATO. And secondly, we have been working very hard on the humanitarian effort. Right now we are number two in the world as far as the money we're putting into the humanitarian effort in both Albania in creating camps there and sending aid and setting up housing and we are the only country that's now working with NGOs, non-governmental organizations in Yugoslavia, both with the Serbs, but also the only one that exists in Kosovo itself, in Pristina and some of the other areas. We are providing with the Kosovo Albanians that are displaced there with food and medicine.
JIM LEHRER: But your opposition or your skepticism about the use of military force, do you think that's been borne out by these last four weeks of the bombing, or are you still reluctant? What... characterize your feeling at this point.
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well, I think what want to do now is be as helpful being in that particular situation where we are actually in a unique situation being both a NATO country and EU country and the only NATO and EU country actually right there, right next to the conflict. We want to be very useful.
JIM LEHRER: With ties to the Serbs.
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: And the Albanians.
JIM LEHRER: Right.
|A Balkan "Marshall Plan."|
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: We have very close relations with the Albanians. We have very close relations with the Serbs. So we want to be able to be there and useful in actually resolving the conflict. We also want to be there and we will be there the day after when all the troops have left. We will be within that neighborhood. And I think there is where our crucial role will be to play in... to play a role in reconstructing the day after in the Balkans. And there are a number of proposals. We've been working them. The German presidency of the EU has been working on them. The United States has been working on this idea of a stability pack, a mini-Marshall plan.
JIM LEHRER: The Marshall plan.
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: I think that's necessary for the reconstruction afterwards. We're trying to work on how we can help in diplomatic efforts, in go-between, and mediating as this unique role within NATO and EU to solve this problem as soon as possible.
JIM LEHRER: But in the meantime, how do you get from here to there? In other words, how do you stop the ethnic cleansing? How do you stop the military conflict?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well, we obviously have to convince Milosevic that there must be a solution where first of all there is a withdrawal of troops.
JIM LEHRER: His troops?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: His troops. Secondly, there is a large extent of autonomy in the Kosovo area within the boundaries of Yugoslavia. There is an implementation force and return of refugees. And this is just something we must be able to convince him. We have been trying through diplomatic efforts to do this.
JIM LEHRER: You've been talking to Milosevic?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well, I personally have been visiting. I visited with Milosevic only a week or so before the campaign, the air campaign.
JIM LEHRER: Have you talked to him since?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: I haven't talked to him personally since, but we have sent envoys to Belgrade basically to talk about the humanitarian issues, but they've also been talking about the political questions.
JIM LEHRER: Let me come back to my question of a moment ago. If the issue of whether or not to introduce ground troops, NATO introducing ground troops into this, where would Greece come down at that?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well, first of all, we haven't reached that point yet.
JIM LEHRER: Okay.
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: I think there are a number of NATO countries... I think there's not a consensus at this point on ground troops. Secondly, we would have to make that decision when we get there to see if... what the actual situation was. But basically, we would not be happy about making a decision on ground troops. We think that we would hope to be able to get to a solution before that question comes up as a serious one. Right now it's not on the agenda. There is the...
JIM LEHRER: It's not on the agenda at the NATO summit at all, is it?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: That's right. It's not a question that's going to be decided now because there is this air campaign, and all of us are hoping that sooner rather than later we will have a political solution. So we'll have to face that question when we get there, but I think there are a number of dangers in ground troops, which really have to be thoughts through as far as to how much they, in fact, will help the solution. We're talking about a situation which will create quite deep wounds in the region, and it will be much more difficult for the reconstruction afterwards and our point of view, if you may understand, is that we're in that region. So we have to think about the day after much more than say some of the other countries in the alliance. And I think bringing that view into the alliance is an important one, because this is what we really want to see. Can we create peace in this region, lasting peace in this region where people can live together? And we have to think about the Albanians and the Serbs actually coexisting. And we want to help them.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Mr. Minister, thank you very much.
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Thank you very much.