Foreign Minister George A. Papandreou
Interview with Charlie Rose
October 3, 2001

CHARLIE ROSE: Joining me now is George Papandreou. He has been the foreign minister of Greece since 1999. He met today with the U.N. secretary general, Kofi Annan, here in New York. Yesterday he met with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington.

I am pleased to have him on this broadcast for the second time. Welcome back.

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: I'm very pleased to be here, thank you for having me.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, nice to have you person-to-person -- face-to-face here.

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Yes, that's right.

CHARLIE ROSE: Tell me, first of all, about the conversation with the secretary of state yesterday. What's the -- what is -- what is, I mean, essentially coming out of these conversations that you can share with us? What's the subject, what's the, you know, what is the agenda, what is the, what is the mandate?

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well, first of all, I think it's very important for all of us to come and visit to Washington and New York. And I've been here in New York to also visit ground zero. I was there, there was a Greek Orthodox Church there, and of course paying respects, many Greeks, Greek - Americans, had also died under the rubble. That doesn't make things any better or worse, it just shows how international this tragedy was. This is a very critical period, and people will be -- and historians will say that there is a pre-11th of September history and there's a post-11th of September history.

Now, what the history will be is in the making right now. And the decisions we make, the United States makes, and NATO makes, we as allies make together, it's going to be a different world.

And I think we all have this need not only to come and express our solidarity, which I did, and our strong condemnation and our will to work together, but also to exchange views.

And I came also from Moscow, Berlin, and Brussels bringing some information from my side. We're in a region in Greece, in the Balkans, near the Middle East, where we think that these regional problems may be, if you like, there is some silver lining to this tragedy, that maybe we can get a grip on some of these problems and move them forward, and maybe it should be a priority also, if we really want to get a wider world alliance against terrorism.

CHARLIE ROSE: OK, you said a lot there, so let me just pick up the first thing and do a number of things.

A pre-September 11 history and a post-September 11 history. What's the potential of the post-September 11 history, the potential of it? What would you hope might be possible and achievable?

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well, maybe to be a bit simplistic here, because I -- very difficult to be a prophet at this point. On the one hand, you may have a much wider development of a conflict. We've all been talking about avoiding the civilization war and the war between Islam and the civilized world of the West, and that Islam in fact should be part of this civilized world.

And we see them as allies, the Islamic countries and the Arab countries. And this is not a religious war. So that's one thing to avoid.

On the other hand, I think it could be an opportunity out of this tragedy to say there are rules in this world, there are problems in this world, we have to work as a global community much more collectively to deal with these effectively, quickly, democratically, in solidarity with peoples that have problems. And isolate these terrible types of organizations that try to use -- and I'm not trying to rationalize in any way, I want to make a very clear distinction here -- try to use problems around the world to further their cause, a terrible cause, of trying to wipe out – this is what bin Laden is saying -- wipe out civilization basically as we know it.

So, in a sense, I think what we see now is a shifting alliances, a possibility of really new alliances. I saw in Russia a great desire, and I think it's reciprocated, this possibility of working together. Already the U.S. and Russia, the European Union, NATO and Russia are working together. And certainly in Afghanistan, in this crisis here. I think this just shows the potential of very different types of realignments.

One thing I think that Putin said which was interesting in Germany only a few days ago, he said now the Cold War is over. I think what he meant is that now we really realize that there are certain types of threats in this world and certain types of problems where we can work together rather than sort of in competition.

CHARLIE ROSE: And working together may help us understand the potential of working together. If you work together on a particular kind of issue it gives you some process for working together on larger issues, whether they may be issues like the environment or whether they may be issues having to do with world health and a whole range of issues that you might not have been able to get together on because the political dimension separated you.

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Absolutely. I think what's happened now is also breaking down maybe some artificial barriers or sort of the ice, if you like, between different relationships that have come from the past. And I think this is something we have to use. We have to use this moment of tragedy, however maybe ironic this may sound, to further human values and the values that we cherish so much.

So I think there is a potential for cooperation in many areas. That, of course, is not simple. But I do see, and I've met with, as you mentioned, with Colin Powell, and I think that the way he's handling it and the administration is with caution, with--

CHARLIE ROSE: What's he asking of you?

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well, we, first of all, have said we want to cooperate in any possible way.

CHARLIE ROSE: So you're part of the coalition?


We have already given our air space to allow flights from the U.S. Air Force. They have refueled on a very major base in Greece and Crete. That we will continue to do. We are working together with the FBI to look at where there may be suspects if we have any information. Bank accounts for money laundering. These are all areas of cooperation.

Also Greece has relations in the region, both in the Balkans and in the Middle East. And particularly in the Middle East, any traditional relations we have we'd liked to help in developing this coalition and also opening up doors for possible changes in policies that will be useful in fighting terror.

CHARLIE ROSE: When you talk to the secretary general, what's the message at the U.N., because last night here-- I mean, there-- first, the coalition.

The coalition as a coalition does not come out of the United Nations. United Nations members will be part of this coalition and they're trying to make it as broad as possible. Muslim and non-Muslim, bringing together as many people. People in member states will contribute in a variety of ways, whether it's allowing fly-over or access to bases, to whether it's sharing intelligence, whether in the case of Britain—the British perhaps using troops, providing troops. A whole range of kinds of things.

There are others who say this ought to be-- take place through the United Nations, as the deputy finance minister-- the deputy foreign minister of Iran said to me last night on this program. What do you say about that? What does the secretary general say about that?

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well, first of all, there—you were talking about this alliance, this coalition, and I think it was Secretary Rumsfeld that used the word "fluid coalition.''


GEORGE PAPANDREOU: And this may be the right way to deal with effectively this particular issue right here of how you deal with the organization of Osama bin Laden. Again, I think what's very important is that in this wider coalition we bring on board the whole world, if possible, all countries, as many as possible countries, and certainly the Arab and Islamic world.

Therefore, what we're trying, I think, to do here is really bring a wedge between the thinking of Osama bin Laden and the possible followers that he may be trying to develop through his actions in these countries. Develop a very-- put in a very strong wedge in between them and isolate them, de-legitimize the type of acts he has in the, if you like, consciousness of some of these societies.

CHARLIE ROSE: De-legitimize both the acts, as well as the logic.

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: The logic and the whole philosophy.

CHARLIE ROSE: The foundation of it.

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: And the foundation of it. In this sense, the U.N. is very important. And the U.N. is very important because the U.N. is a legitimate, recognized by all, organization and therefore can play a very-- has a very important role of authority in this political-- in this political struggle, this ideological, if you like, struggle that's taking place now.

Secondly, I think there are many countries that do feel that they do want the decision of the U.N. resolution on any action because this then allows them to be more active in this fight, in this particular fight with the United States and other allies.

I would say that Greece also would like to see an important role of the U.N. And I do believe that more and more in this globalized world we will see the role of the U.N. taking on more importance. I know there's a big debate, there has been a big debate in the United States in the past over the role of the U.N., but I think this debate will shift quite a bit in a globalized world where why should it be the United States that is seen as the one super power which then attracts all these different groups to hit it and not use a global governance, in a sense. And so the concept of global governance, I think, will be more and more important. And therefore, the U.N. more and more important in dealing with these global issues.

CHARLIE ROSE: What should--

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: That doesn't change the very important role that the U.S. will always have.

CHARLIE ROSE: What should we be worried about? I mean, of all those people who want to see terrorism eradicated and the possibilities and the campaign to eradicate it as it begins, both in terms of finance, both in terms of demanding the Taliban that they give up Osama bin Laden; all those things that are now coming to a point, we assume, of increased engagement. What worries you about it? What are the land mines that we have be careful not to step on?

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: I think-- I think the U.S. has played it very well. I can-- I mean, I've lived in this country, I was born in this country, as you--

CHARLIE ROSE: Educated here?

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Educated here. This is a huge, huge event in U.S. history and it's deeply emotional in everyone who lives here, and I would say around the world also, but obviously particularly for American citizens. So I think the gut reaction was easily to shoot from the hip right away the first day.

CHARLIE ROSE: So we avoided that danger?

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: That was-- that was being smart, basically. It's being smart in dealing with this kind of-- and maybe that is exactly what these terrorists wanted, to create a much major-- bigger, bigger conflict.

So falling into that trap, I think, was avoided. But then at the same time be very resolute in not only the condemnation but in developing this fight against terrorism, this campaign against terrorism. It is very important to develop this coalition, take all the measures and work on all forums to do this.

Try to keep this coalition together. Build it, keep it together and make sure that we bring in the Islamic world and the Arab world. They must fight with us also. I think it's very important that the messages come out that, you know, this is in our society has nothing to do with Islam or with the Arab world. It has to do with terrorists that have made this terrible, unjustified act.

So I think these are some important elements here.

CHARLIE ROSE: You are-- Greece-- your government is a fully participating member in this coalition.


CHARLIE ROSE: You haven't drawn any restrictions in terms of what you will or will not do?

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: No. We've said that we're open to all kinds of cooperation. We'll be in consultation with the United States. And what we have been asked by the United States to do, we have done.

CHARLIE ROSE: How much of a sentiment is there that somehow this is a consequence of something-- of the United States being too strong and too engaged in too many unilateral activities?

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well, I think one has to separate two debates here. And I think it's very important.

On the one hand, there is a very strong condemnation, not only in our country but also throughout Europe, of this act as an unjustified and immoral act. But then there is a debate about what are the reasons for this? Not in any way to justify or rationalize this act, but it's important to have that debate also if we really want to shed light on the root causes, whatever they may be, or whatever causes may be there that actually-- so we can prevent further development of these types of groups and these types of activities.

So I think there are two different debates going on here. I think as time goes by I think it's too early to really delve into all these root causes because at this point talking about them a lot is in some sense sort of giving the moral high ground or giving some moral space to this type of an act. We can't do that.

CHARLIE ROSE: There is time for that kind of reflection.

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: There is time for that. We should do that. But that's, I think, something we should do as we begin to heal from the wounds.

CHARLIE ROSE: Were you presented-- as foreign minister of Greece, were you presented with the evidence against Osama bin Laden? Did you see it or did they tell you about it? How does that process go as a contributing country?

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well-- yes, well, we were handed the evidence this morning in Greece by the U.S. embassy. I haven't personally seen it. I was here in New York and a very busy schedule. And this evidence was also-- we were informed in NATO, our permanent representatives there. So this--

CHARLIE ROSE: George Robertson says it's convincing and compelling.

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Yes, the permanent representatives that were informed all felt that it was convincing.

Again, I think we have to differentiate here. This is not a court case. This is a political conclusion which I think is quite clear that behind these acts we have a threat from outside that has attacked a NATO member. This is the Article V we have invoked. And the question was -- was this an attack from outside? And of course this Article V did refer to a Cold War situation so it was a slightly-- it was thinking slightly in a different period. But still I think if we get beyond the legalistic-- the legalistic interpretation of Article V it's very clear that this attack is an attack against--

CHARLIE ROSE: An act of war against--

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: An act of war against a NATO member. And therefore we are in solidarity and will work together.

CHARLIE ROSE: Demanding response from all.


CHARLIE ROSE: Finally, do you have a sense that while everybody talks about this will not be the kind of war that they've seen before -- this is not the Gulf War, this is not another war that we've seen before. A lot of it will be covert. A lot of it will be unseen. A lot of it will have to do with drying up sources; lots of kinds of things like that. But do you have any sense with the amassing of all this firepower over there that it's sooner rather than later?

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: The-- well, I think that we have to see short term and long-term strategy here. Of course, short term has to be linked with how we deal in the long term with this-- with these types of activities. I understand that the U.S. is preparing for a very specific response and they are targeting very specifically -- and we also talked about this in the European Union -- a targeted response particularly to these perpetrators. We want to see them brought to justice. I think this is a general feeling.

That also means that we should look to a long term to combine our efforts to deal with an underground type of an activity. It can't be a traditional type of a war. You just can't pull out your principles of war handbook and say this is how we're going to do it. It's a very different type of an activity. And much of it has to do with police, but a lot of it has to do with political, diplomatic and even economic measures and looking at some of the, you know, social and root causes around the world.

So I think it's a widespread type of a campaign which will redefine much of our foreign policy thinking, redefine many of our coalitions, realign the world powers. But this is also a very important opportunity, I think, that we should use in doing so.

CHARLIE ROSE: Greece and Turkey will become friends?

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well, we're already trying to do so. I think we've developed a very different relationship over the past two years where we've worked very hard. That doesn't mean we've solved all our problems. Cyprus, for example, is a big problem which will make or break our relationship, I believe. And what we've said in Greece is that if we can get together Greece and Turkey, as we're doing now, and working together from fighting crime, working against terrorism, questions of illegal immigration, environment, demining our borders.

CHARLIE ROSE: Fighting terrorism?

GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Fighting terrorism, absolutely. This is a new area of cooperation. We've already signed an agreement. We should be able to get the two communities -- Greeks Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots -- to live together as a showcase of cooperation on this island.

So I would say that, yes, it's a difficult relationship but we're on a new path. And new paths maybe have their twists and turns, but we know where we're going. And that is a new relationship between Greece and Turkey -- a peaceful one. And a peaceful one in the whole region of the Balkans. And we're working hard for that and I think it's very promising.

CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you for coming.


CHARLIE ROSE: A pleasure to have you here. Foreign Minister Papandreou of Greece.