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Greece - Foreign Relations

Greece's foreign policy is generally aligned with that of its EU partners. Greece maintains full diplomatic, political, and economic relations with its Southeast European neighbors, except with the Republic of Macedonia, and regards itself as a leader of the region's Euro-Atlantic integration process. It provided peacekeeping contingents for Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. Prominent issues in Greek foreign policy include Greek-Turkish differences in the Aegean, illegal migration, Turkish accession to the EU, Balkan integration and the name dispute with Macedonia, the reunification of Cyprus, and Greek-American relations.

Greece has a special interest in the Middle East because of its geographic position and its economic and historic ties to the area. Greece cooperated with allied forces during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War. Since 1994, Greece has signed defense cooperation agreements with Israel and Egypt. In recent years, Greek leaders have hosted several meetings of Israeli and Palestinian politicians to contribute to the peace process. While Greece has been traditionally supportive of Palestinian claims, beginning in the late 1990s, efforts to strike a more balanced relationship with Israel received a boost. Israeli President Moshe Katsav visited Greece in 2006, the first-ever official visit by an Israeli head of state.

Under Karamanlis Greece continued to participate in negotiations to find a solution to the Macedonia name issue, but was awaiting more positive signals from the Macedonians that it can accept a solution comprised of a composite name with a geographic modifier that has a very broad scope of use. On relations with Russia, the Greece had a policy driven by Karamanlis himself: that Greece would support the political positions of the EU to uphold Georgia's territorial integrity, while continuing business as usual with Russia on energy and other economic issues. Stability in the Balkans remained key for Greek foreign policy.

After PASOK beat out PM Karamanlis' ruling ND party in 2009, it criticized Karamanlis' close relationships with the Russians and said that Greece under PASOK would be more oriented toward economic and national interests rather than making concessions to Russia and China. Greece aimed to exploit its geopolitical advantages, as a pole of stability and growth in southeastern Europe, a modern energy, transit, commercial and banking hub in the wider region.

Karamanlis's moves toward Russia were viewed positively by much of the Greek press and public, which attached considerable value to the common Orthodox heritage and leftist nostalgia. In signing the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline deal with the Russians and Bulgarians in 2007, Karamanlis was able to make good on a legacy issue of strengthening Greece's position as an energy-transit hub. He also tried to position himself as taking a "balanced" position between the US and Russia -- in contrast to what some Greeks believed was the overly pro-American line of his Foreign Minister and political competitor, Dora Bakoyannis.

The Papandreou government entered office with a new initiative -- Agenda 2014 -- to spur the integration of the Western Balkan countries into Euro-Atlantic structures by the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I in Sarajevo. Greece was a strong supporter of regional economic development and Greek firms, particularly banks, are among the most heavily invested in Balkan countries. Greece has not recognized Kosovo's independence, but remained a significant contributor to the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR).





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