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Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Constantinos Mitsotakis of Greece

December 12, 1991

The President. Mr. Prime Minister and distinguished members of the Greek Government, 5 months ago, I visited Athens, the first visit by an American President to Greece in more than a generation. Today, in welcoming Prime Minister Mitsotakis to the White House, our two countries reaffirm the value of close contact to address common concern.

Mr. Prime Minister, in the past 3 years, we've witnessed a world transformed, and your continent has been right at the center of change. America sees Greece as a partner in meeting many of the challenges that cross borders and threaten the peace: terrorism, international drug trade, ethnic conflict.

In the Balkans, in the new Europe, in Cyprus, Greece remains a factor for stability, a champion of human rights, a partner in the quest to forge a new world order: peaceful, prosperous, and free.

The U.S. continues to be as concerned as we have been in the past with Greece's security and the sanctity of its borders. We continue to help Greece strengthen its defenses. And we support the progress your nation has made toward economic reform, liberalizing trade and investment.

Opening Greek markets to investment from the United States and other nations will mean jobs and better living standards for Greeks and Americans alike.

Our meetings today also focused on challenges that stand as obstacles to lasting peace in your corner of the world: The longstanding conflict in Cyprus, and Yugoslavia's fratricidal civil war.

Let me start with Yugoslavia. Who can fail to be moved by these heartrending images, carnage and suffering on a scale that recalls the horrors of the Second World War rather than the hopes of the new era we've now entered. The U.S. supports the European Community's efforts, the EC's efforts, including economic sanctions, to stop the fighting.

We remain convinced that a negotiated settlement, helped along by the United Nations and the interested international community, is possible, necessary, and certainly long overdue.

In the case of Cyprus, I again offer the good offices of the United States to overcome a source of bitter conflict between two of our valued allies. We continue to hope for an international high-level meeting on Cyprus as early as possible in 1992.

With good-faith negotiations, and the continued efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General, we can make progress in producing a settlement acceptable to all parties.

Mr. Prime Minister, let me just close by simply saying that Greece holds great meaning for Americans: Not only the millions who trace their own ancestry to your country, but, as relative newcomers now in our third century of democracy, as a people who revere Greece as the birthplace of democracy more than two millennia ago.

It's been a very special pleasure having this opportunity to meet with you again, to have you and your able team here in Washington, DC today, and to wish Greece on behalf of all Americans every blessings for the new year.

All yours.

The Prime Minister. I would like first to express my heartfelt thanks to President Bush for inviting me to Washington and receiving me at the White House so warmly. At this moment in history when democracy's flourishing throughout the world, it is a great honor for me as Prime Minister of Greece, where democracy was born 2,500 years ago, to come for an official visit to the United States, the champion of democracy in our times.

The love of freedom and faith in democracy are two of the important ties that form a unique bond between Greece and the United States. And I welcome the opportunity this visit has given me to reinforce our special relationship in this season of hope and renewal.

I am especially pleased that this visit allowed me to continue my private talks with President Bush and with our delegations to expand on the substantial and fruitful discussions we had in Greece last summer.

As might be expected, we exchanged views on world developments and focused closely on what is happening in our region, the Balkans, where, as you know, Greece is playing an essential role in promoting peace and stability.

We had a lengthy discussion on the Cyprus question, and I thanked President Bush for his personal commitment to help bring about a fair settlement that will end the long agony of the Cypriot people.

I am certain that with the strong support of the President, the new Secretary-General of the United Nations, building on the achievements of his worthy predecessor, will be able to lead the efforts of all of us to a speedy and successful conclusion on Cyprus.

I want to stress that our talks marked one more milestone in the improving relations between our two countries, which, as you know, have made spectacular progress in the past 2 years.

The ties between Greece and the United States are strong and special. We fought in two World Wars together and waged a joint struggle to stop the spread of totalitarianism. But what makes it such a profound pleasure for all Greeks who come to the United States is that we recognize the highest ideals of this Nation as native to our own. I am very confident that the special relationship between Greece and the United States, which reflects the common values of our two peoples and the strong friendship they have fostered will grow even stronger in the years ahead.

Let me conclude by wishing everyone in the United States a very happy holiday season.

Note: The President spoke at 1:19 p.m. on the South Lawn of the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George Bush, Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Constantinos Mitsotakis of Greece Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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