February 10, 2015 / 7:59 PM / in 3 years

Greek foreign minister takes war reparations claim to Berlin, gets rebuffed

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias talks to the media as he arrives at an extraordinary European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels January 29, 2015.Francois Lenoir

BERLIN (Reuters) - The Greek foreign minister took his government's claim for World War Two reparations direct to Berlin on Tuesday and received a clear rebuke from his German counterpart.

On Sunday, Greece's new leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, in his first major speech to parliament, ruled out any extension of its 240 billion euro international bailout and pledged to seek war reparations from Germany.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Berlin before talks, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said in fluent German, putting one hand into his jacket: "In my inside pocket, I've got that part of the speech from the prime minister who addressed the issue (of reparations)."

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier replied that Berlin was fully aware of its political and moral responsibility for the "terrible events" in Greece between 1941 and 1944 when Nazi German troops occupied the Mediterranean country.

"Still, we are firmly convinced that all reparations issues, including forced loans, are judicially settled once-and-for-all," Steinmeier said.

German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Monday that all matters in that regard had been finally dealt with in major power negotiations that led to German reunification in 1990.

Germany and Greece share a complex history that has complicated the debt debate. The issue of the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War Two has resurfaced since Greece has been forced to endure tough reforms in return for a financial bailout partly funded by euro zone partners, above all Germany.

Many Greeks have blamed euro zone heavyweight Germany for the austerity, which has led to the revival of a dormant claim against Berlin for billions of euros of war reparations.

Germany denies owing anything more to Greece for World War Two after the 115 million deutsche marks it paid in 1960, one of 12 war compensation deals it signed with Western nations.

But Athens has said it always considered that money to be only an initial payment, with the rest of its claims to be discussed after German reunification, which followed the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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