Greece can be a bridge between Iran and the EU: Pangalos

February 23, 2009 - 0:0

TEHRAN - Greek MP Theodoros Pangalos made headlines across the world in early January when he refused to accept a gift from Israeli Ambassador Ali Yahya during the Gaza war.

Yahya had tried to give Mr. Pangalos three bottles of Israeli wine as a New Year’s present.
In an official letter to the Israeli ambassador, which was soon circulated all over the world, Pangalos formally rejected the gift, pointing out that his conscience would not allow him to accept productions of theft and occupation.
“Unfortunately, I have noticed that the wine you sent me was made in the Golan Heights. Since my childhood, I have been taught to neither steal nor accept the proceeds of theft. Therefore, I cannot possibly accept this gift and must return it to you,” wrote Mr. Pangalos, who served as Greece’s foreign minister from 1996 to 1999 and briefly served as culture minister in the year 2000.
“As you know, your country illegally occupies the Golan Heights, which belongs to Syria according to international law and numerous decisions of the international community,” Pangalos added.
“Such acts as those of the Israel military in Gaza these days remind us of the holocausts of Greeks in Kalavrita or Doxato or Distomo and certainly also of the Warsaw ghetto,” he pointed out in the letter.
In an interview conducted last week by Kourosh Ziabari for the Tehran Times, Mr. Pangalos described his views on Palestine and Iran-Greece relations.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
“The current Israeli policies bring more poverty, desperation, and hopelessness to the Palestinians. These feelings lead to increasing violence.”
“Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians or the Lebanese or the Egyptians or the Syrians or the Jordanians or the Iranians will disappear. They have to live in peace together. They have to follow mutual steps. For example, without returning the Golan Heights to Syria, Israel will never establish peace with Syria.”
“In Greece, all of our media strongly criticized the Israeli attacks against Gaza. The attitude of the American media, for example, toward the Israeli attacks is connected with many causes and I am sure that your readers know them.
“As you know, propaganda has always played a crucial role in war. The independent journalists are unwelcome on every side in any war because they can tell all the truths that the embedded journalists can’t. Unwanted publicity in our days, the era of television, mobile phones, and Internet, can be catastrophic not only for the international image of a state but also for the internal justification of violence against innocent people.”
“Those who are left behind, those who are alive have to act in order to fulfill the dream for an independent Palestinian state. This is the reason for the sacrifice of their loved ones.”
“If anybody wants to bring Israeli officials to an international court, there are specific procedures, but I wonder what would happen if a Palestinian went to an Israeli court claiming compensation for the death of his family or for the destruction of his home.
“You must not forget that the international community brought to justice and the international court condemned to life in prison the Christian Serbs who were found guilty of committing war crimes against the Bosnian Muslims.”
On the prospects for Iran-Greece relations, he said, “Iranian people are the heirs of an ancient and great civilization and anyone who speaks with an Iranian must remember this. However, there is something more than this because many people know something about the Persian Empire of Cyrus but few know the major contribution to the Islamic and world civilizations of the Iranian medieval Islamic empire.
“When I was minister of foreign affairs, I made great efforts to promote friendship and cooperation between our countries. I believe, and many Greeks also believe, that our ancient nations have much to gain from a better relationship. Greece is a reliable and faithful friend, and it can be a successful bridge between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the European Union.”