Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA)
Even though the Delphi Forum was postponed due to the Coronavirus precautions, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmen who would have been one of the speakers didn’t cancel his trip to Greece, from March 3-7. Speaking in Athens on the 5th of March, he reiterated President Trump’s strong support for Greece’s efforts to secure borders.
“We are deeply sympathetic to the position Greece is in and the disproportionate share of the burden that Greece bears, and we welcome EU commitments of support.”
The statement created strong reactions in the Community, with HALC demanding through its ongoing #StandwithGreece social media campaign a clear U.S. position.
“Strong support for Greece requires condemning Turkey’s weaponization of vulnerable people, not “deep sympathies.” Please send a clear message to Erdogan”, was the reply o HALC’s executive director Endy Zemenides to a U.S. Embassy in Athens twitter post.
The strong Greek American Community pressure forced Palmer to rephrase his position on the events in Greeco-Turkish border.
“The uncontrolled movement of thousands of people who have been misled into believing that the road to Europe is open is fundamentally destabilizing. It’s unsustainable and it needs to change,” the U.S. State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs said on Saturday in statements from the city of Alexandroupolis.
“We are here to demonstrate solidarity with Greece, with the region in this difficult period. What is happening at the borders in unsustainable, unacceptable,” he underlined.
Asked by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency if the current situation at the borders could affect in any way the economic and geostrategic interest of the US in the region, he replied:
“I am hopeful that we will see a resolution of the situation on the border in relatively short order and in particular hopefully the ceasefire that was agreed between Ankara and Moscow in Idlib will ease some of the pressure as well as the assistance that the United States and other countries have offered to support migrants and refugees in Turkey,” he said and added that the United States has put forward an additional 108 million dollars in assistance working through UNHCR and the International Office for Migration which is intended in part to help alleviate the pressures at the border.
Asked whether Greece needs to impose additional security measures given the current situation in the borders, he stated: “As the President (Trump) has made absolutely clear, Greece has the right to defend its borders. I personally have been impressed by the professionalism of the Greek security services along the borders, the way they have dealt with very challenging circumstances and Greece has our support in what it’s doing both here in Evros and in the Aegean to ensure border security.”
HIS FIRST STATEMENT
“Greece has the right to protect its borders, it is a totally reasonable position, it is every country’s duty and responsibility,” he said at an event organised by the Delphi Economic Forum entitled “US strategy in the Western Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean, where Greece is a pillar of stability”.
Palmer, who has responsibility for the Western Balkans and the Aegean, noted that it was important to find a solution that allows stability and offers a long-term answer to this challenge.
“What is happening on the borders between Greece and Turkey underlines how fragile the situation is. Greece can count on the friendship, support and its relationship with the USA,” he said.
“We are deeply sympathetic to the position that Greece now finds itself in and the disproportionate share of the burden it carries in the European framework,” Palmer said, welcoming the EU’s recent decision to disburse 700 million euros to support Greece in providing services to migrants and refugees and the additional Frontex personnel sent to assist in providing security.
The EU has proved that it recognises Greece’s heavy burden and it is important that all those involved find a way to sit down and discuss these issues, and find a solution that will respect the interests and the needs of all sides, he said.
Referring to US relations with Turkey, he called them “complicated” and noted the need for dialogue and cooperation so that the challenges relating to Turkish drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, the situation in Syria and in migration can be addressed, “but in a way that keeps Turkey anchored to the strategy of the West, as a NATO ally and partner”.
As he pointed out, the US would like channels of communication between Greece and Turkey to stay open, adding that the US will do whatever is possible to avert any serious incident and for the avoidance of tension.
He also explained that the US is actively involved at a higher level, in order to allay any tension that might arise. Senior US officials do not hesitate to pick up the phone, get on a plane or cooperate with their partners in Athens and Ankara in order to to address and resolve areas of friction before they become points of conflict,” he said.
“We are here to underscore our firm commitment to this project, to this port, to support American investment and also we are here to demonstrate our solidarity with the people of Greece and the people of this region in a difficult time,” the U.S. State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Matthew Palmer, said on Saturday in statements from the northern city of Alexandroupolis.
“There is a lot of excitement on the part of the United States about this project, about the opportunities, about the prospects for US business to come here, to invest in this port, in this region, to deepen the partnership that we have been enjoying between the United States and Greece on a commercial basis as well as on a strategic basis,” he added.
On his part, US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt noted that his presence as well as Mr Palmer’s presence in the area is a gesture of solidarity with the people of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, the people of Evros who have bore the brunt at the recent escalation of the migration crisis at the borders.
“It is also a reflection of the strong strategic focus that the US government has placed on Alexandropolis, it is the reflection of our optimism of the prospects of working with Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ government to see to fruition a complex of projects- the privatisation of the port in which there is strong US private sector interest, the execution of the FSRU in Alexandropolis which will play a major role in reinforcing the energy security and independence of the countries of SE Europe, the implementation of TAP and IGB pipelines which are literally changing the energy map of SE Europe and the prospect of Alexandropolis to become once again a major logistics and transshipment point for the wider region,” he added.