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IBNA/Energy Ministers: Enhanced energy co-operation between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt

The 6th Tripartite Summit of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, was completed with a positive sign in Elouda, Crete, where the leaders of the three countries and the Ministers who participated certified the strategic co-operation that enhances the security, stability and prosperity of the Southeastern Mediterranean region.

On the sidelines of the summit, Energy Ministers who were at the centre of talks, spoke exclusively to IBNA, about the importance of this summit and the developments in the energy sector.

Greek Minister of Environment and Energy, Giorgos Stathakis

One of the main issues discussed today in the context of the 6th Tripartite Summit between Greece, Cyprus & Egypt is that of energy policy. Can you comment on the prospects in this area in the framework of the trilateral co-operation?

"As you know, the three countries are of strategic importance in terms of the new hydrocarbon fields that have been found in the southeastern Mediterranean and which will be used. Therefore, the issues are common for the three countries. There is co-operation in progressing with the hydrocarbon exploration and the way natural gas will be transferred to Europe, which is the primary market interested in it. LNG hubs are also relevant to this, as are the pipelines. This is what our discussions are about."

According to sources, the Egyptian side is interested in participating in the East Med project. Is this accurate?

"I think it is too early for one to think so. There is an ongoing discussion. At later meetings we will see how and under what circumstances such a co-operation could go ahead."

Should we expect the tripartite co-operation to expand soon?

"As you know, we will move on to the next phase with the East Med at the centre of attention. Other meetings will also follow though, with Egypt too, among others."

Cypriot Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry & Tourism, Georgios Lakkotrypis

What were the conclusions of the tripartite summit, energy wise?

"We discussed energy and the latest developments on the summit's sidelines but at leaders level as well, and how these bring us a step closer to what we call eastern Mediterranean natural gas corridor, which is none other than our effort to deliver the region's natural gas to the European Union via Cyprus, Egypt and Greece. The various ongoing projects were discussed, such as the study on the East Med pipeline, and developments regarding the LNG terminals in Revithousa and Alexandroupolis – as you heard the Greek PM say – which will be particularly useful to the creation of the corridor, especially if some of the natural gas transferred from the east Mediterranean is in liquid form. We also discussed future developments and the next steps for better co-ordination. You also heard about the agreement of the three countries regarding the organisation of a forum at the beginning of next year, in an effort to expand it."

Egyptian Minister of Petroleum, Tarek El-Molla

What are your expectations following the 6th trilateral meeting between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt in terms of energy projects?

"It is all going towards the right direction. This is how we showcase and highlight what we have begun working on, which is a fully fledged co-operation in the energy sector. After this meeting, I think that we are more confident about this collaboration being further strengthened in the energy sector and especially gas. Gas now is the name of the game in the east Mediterranean and, in a wider term, in the Mediterranean there is a new resource and energy where all the developments and work will be focusing on collaboration between the countries, fully maximising the resource (gas) between the producers, the countries we all know and the consumers themselves.

When we talk about consumers, we mean consumers in the Mediterranean and specifically in Europe. So, if we say that the three countries are fully co-ordinated in this regard, I think that a wider co-operation and alignment between more countries within the Mediterranean (region) with regard to gas will be definitely reached since we (already) have this full alignment between the three countries. There is full understanding, full alignment and complete comprehension. Reserves have been found in Egypt, in Cyprus, possibly in Greece, too since drilling has started there also. So, hopefully, we will be able to maximise co-operation as far as gas and energy are concerned, with energy being the main lever which all countries can use to base their economy on."

Are the countries supportive of each other and friendly to each other stability and security wise?

"The countries are 100% aligned. There is understanding between the leaders while there is also agreement over the followed policies."… / IBNA

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Pressure on government grows as FM resignation fallout continues

The Greek coalition government continues to be under pressure following the resignation of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias earlier this week.

Opposition parties came down hard on the Prime Minister, focusing on Kotzias’ clash with Panos Kammenos, the Defense Minister and leader of junior coalition partner Independent Greeks.

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis slammed Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for taking the side of his coalition partner over the Foreign Minister, which led to the latter’s resignation.

“It's perfectly clear that Mr Tsipras is not just a weak prime minister, he is a hostage [to his alliance with Kammenos]. The sooner this farce ends, the better it will be for the country,” Mitsotakis charged.

A similar view was echoed by Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis, while Movement for Change leader Fofi Gennimata said the PM is “walking toward the cliff hand-in-hand with Mr Kammenos,” and that the foreign minister's resignation “confirms the crisis that is smoldering in the government partnership.

Meanwhile, New Democracy upped the pressure on the government by flagging reported claims by Kammenos that Foreign Ministry funds have been mismanaged during Kotzias’ tenure. Sources close to the former FM have rejected any such claims. Nevertheless, ND called on the government to provide explanations.

MPs of the Movement for Change also called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to clarify whether Kotzias quit over claims relating to mismanagement of funds.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos played down the demands of the opposition, while pointing out that Kotzias had voluntarily decided to resign for reasons not related to government work.

Government sources attacked the main opposition, calling Kyriacos Mitsotakis questioning of the use of so called “secret” ministry funds, “wretched”. “The government has nothing to hide”, the same sources pointed out, urging ND to stop undermining the country’s foreign policy./IBNA

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The Assembly said YES to the constitutional changes to name Macedonia’s North

A majority vote of 80 MPs has approved the decision to open the constitution for constitutional amendments to the name under the Prespa Agreement.

These changes will enable the country's name change in the Republic of North Macedonia in accordance with the Prespa Agreement reached between Skopje and Athens.

Initially, it was voted through the electronic system, and with the insistence of the VMRO-DPMNE parliamentary group leader, the deputies voted separately.

In the two voting phases, 80 required votes of the ruling coalition, the Albanian opposition parties, and the votes of 8 deputies of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE coalition were secured. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov also attended the session./IBNA

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Tsipras, Draghi and the reason behind their meeting

The meeting of Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras with the head of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi in Brussels could be nothing but accidental during the first summit, in the European capital.

Surely, there have been positive signals about the good course of the Greek economy, however, there is an issue that remains thorny for Athens and is related to the preparation of the next issue of a bond, which is scheduled for the beginning of the new year.

And why would Mario Draghi could have a say in this….

At the moment, all four Greek systemic banks (National, Eurobank, Piraeus and Alpha Bank) have in their portfolios approximately 7.5 billion euros in Greek government securities. But the ECB does not give the "green light" for their increase.

The above came into force in February 2015 during the time Yannis Varoufakis was at the helm of the Finance ministry, when Frankfurt expressed its concern that the Finance Ministry could filled banks with treasury bills and bonds in order to solve the liquidity problem of the state. This seems of no usefulness today.

As this restriction is lifted, players in the domestic securities market will become more and bond yields will fall to manageable levels, as the 10-year yield is currently close to 4.5%.

Therefore, the Greek side has well founded reasons to wish to see Draghi's stance changed…. / IBNA

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The frozen conflict between Serbia and Kosovo poses a “stability risk”

Washington appeals on both Belgrade and Pristina to use a "historic opportunity" and reach an agreement which would be a win-win solution, said Matthew Palmer, deputy assistant of the American secretary of state. Palmer spoke during the Belgrade Security Forum today. He has also met President Aleksandar Vucic.

"If somebody wins, and the other side loses, then nobody wins", Palmer said at the panel "Building on momentum in the Balkans".

The American official said that his country does not "push" towards any specific result of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. "We do encourage both sides to find way forward as well as durable and sustainable solution", Palmer said.

The solution must be acceptable for the both sides, he went on. Washington is ready to "hear and assist", Palmer said, adding, however, that he cannot talk about details, especially on a possible swap of the territories.

Palmer explained that no plan of the territory swap has been presented so far. Although the United States do understand concerns that the territory swap could provoke a crisis in the other parts of the region, an unresolved dispute or "frozen conflict" could also "pose a risk for the regional stability", Palmer said.

He underlined that Serbia and Kosovo have a "European future" and that they both need assistance in that regard.

Palmer also referred to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. If Skopje wants to join both European Union and NATO, then the Prespa Agreement has no alternative, he emphasised. Palmer appealed on political leaders in Skopje to overcome parties' divisions for the sake of a "European future".

Referring to Bosnia, Palmer said that the "biggest problem" of that country are its "corrupt politicians who use a nationalistic rhetoric to create divisions". He added that the United States are "committed" to Bosnia's territorial integrity.

The "United States want to help everybody. Stronger Western Balkans means a stronger Europe and a stronger Trans-Atlantic partnership", the American diplomat concluded…. / IBNA

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BiH against Kosovo’s membership in Interpol

Bosnia and Herzegovina will not support the membership of Kosovo in Interpol, the BiH Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.

The Ministry explained this decision based on the fact that BiH has not recognised Kosovo as independent state yet and, accordingly, cannot support its membership in any of the international organisations.

In its press release the Ministry emphasised that it did not recognise the "the self-proclaimed independence of so-called Kosovo and, and in accordance with that, does not support the applications for its membership in the international and regional organisations, therefore it will not support a possible candidacy for the membership of so-called Kosovo in Interpol."

The exception, according to the ministry's statement is the participation of this region that declared independence from Serbia in 2008, in certain international and regional initiatives, which was previously harmonised with Serbia.

"BiH Ministry of Foreign Affairs has delivered to all competent institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina a detailed explanation of the said foreign-policy goal, which is the ground for Bosnia and Herzegovina's acting at international forums", said the ministry.

Kosovo's recognition is a political issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where a decision to acknowledge the independence of this country requires the consent of three constituent ethnic groups and two semi-autonomous entities. Republika Srpska politicians are following the stance of Serbia on this matter. It means that BiH will not recognise Kosovo until Serbia does it.

Pristina issue triggered the very first sparks between elected members of BiH Presidency, Milorad Dodik and Željko Komšić, because Komšić recently said that, as far as he is concerned, Kosovo is an independent state. Dodik reacted with a statement, saying that there is no way to consent to BiH recognising this "Serbian region". Also, politicians in Serbia, the country's president Aleksandar Vučić and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ivica Dačić, underlined that the Komšić statement is not in accordance with the good relations between two states.

"BiH did not recognise Kosovo, and if members of the Presidency do not respect the territorial integrity of Serbia, they should know that they are breaking friendly relations, as well as provoking our reciprocal reaction. Instead, it's better to turn to co-operation and a common future", Dačić note…. / ΙΒΝΑ

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