New York.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA)
The upcoming visit to Greece by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is an indication that U.S.-Greek relations have reached a historically high level, a senior State Department official said on Friday, speaking to Washington correspondents via tele-conference..
“This is going to be Secretary Pompeo’s second trip to Greece. It was just under a year ago when we went to Athens and had – as part of our bilateral Strategic Dialogue with Greece and a number of engagements there. I think going back this year, it will underscore just how strong U.S.-Greek ties have become over the last few years. U.S.-Greek relations really are at a generational high, and this coming visit will underscore a year of real successes in our bilateral relationship”, the official said, noting that the upcoming visit would highlight the successes in bilateral relations and Greece’s emergence as a strong regional partner for the U.S. in security and energy.
Pompeo will start his visit in Thessaloniki, where he will be met by Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.
“This will be the first time that a U.S. secretary of state visits that extraordinarily historic city. It is, of course, a gateway to the Balkans in terms of investment and trade, and we’ll be under – able to discuss and underscore a lot of progress that’s gone on in that region. It happens to be the hometown of Foreign Minister Dendias, which will add a nice touch to it, and of course, I think being able to get outside of the capitals gives the Secretary a chance to highlight our engagement broadly in Greece and other countries, for that matter. “
The senior U.S. official told the journalists that “We’ll demonstrate in Thessaloniki how we are, together with Greece, investing in the future of the Eastern Mediterranean as well as the Balkans. I think we noted in the trip announcement that the Secretary will sign a bilateral science and technology agreement. There will be an energy sector business leaders gathering that the Secretary will host to discuss and highlight energy diversification and infrastructure projects in Greece. I think you’re well aware of the push to help Greece become a more capable partner with the United States in terms of energy diversification and independence. The Development Finance Corporation recently visited Athens and is working to support a number of projects there, including with the Alexandroupoli and Kavala ports. “
Pompeo’s next stop will be Crete, where he will be met by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at his home and visit the Souda base.
“This engagement, I think, is another example of the security relationship that, of course, has expanded since we signed last year the revision and expansion of the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement with Greece. That’s enabled us to really enhance a lot of bilateral activities at Larissa and Stefanovikeio. We’ve been able to increase activity at the Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, and of course have assured access at the port of Alexandroupoli. As I mentioned, these are really big developments in terms of working with our NATO allies, in this case particularly Greece.”
The Senior State Department Official avoided a question, if the U.S. will ask for Greece to demilitarize the Aegean Islands, but he repeated the support to the resumption of the exploratory dialogue between Greece and Turkey.
“As you know, we’ve been vocal and the Secretary has certainly talked about it many times, on the need to de-escalate in the Eastern Med. He’s expressed his deep concern for challenges we’ve had there, but again, also embracing the recent positive developments and the prospect of return to dialogue. We welcomed the September 22nd announcement of the resumption of exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey; certainly encouraging that. So I’m sure that will be touched upon.”
The U.S. official mentioned the recent meeting of Secretary Pompeo with foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey and noted that the ability to deconflict and then have discussions and dialogue is so important between these two NATO allies, Turkey and Greece, and reduces the likelihood of any accidents or incidents.
“So we continue to encourage Greece and Turkey to move forward on that and ideally be able to create – complete an agreement.”
But he clarified once more that the focus of the trip is on our bilateral relationship with Greece.
“We really have done so much in a year; we can reflect on that, some of the new developments – energy diversification, as I said, is an important topic in Thessaloniki and northern Greece, and we’ll highlight things like energy cooperation and economic ties.”
Especially on Souda Bay, he said “we’ll focus, as I indicated, on our security relationship. Good security in the Eastern Med is, of course, a benefit to all Greece and Turkey, and all of our allies in the whole Euro-Atlantic region. That is a priority for us, for the NATO alliance, and we will continue to be very much engaged there, so looking forward to these opportunities.”
The State Department official replying in a question on the Seville Map, he reiterated the position expressed by U.S. ambassador in Ankara, David Satterfield, that the United States shares the view that the EU has also expressed that the Seville Map does not have any legal significance.
“As a matter of principle, as Ambassador Satterfield has underscored many times, as the Secretary has said, we encourage all states to resolve maritime delimitation issues peacefully and in accordance with international law. We take no position on maritime boundary issues or generally how states should delimit their maritime boundaries. That’s why we’ve encouraged all sides to go to use dialogue and the opportunities and institutional structures that we have to have dialogue, use diplomacy to resolve these issues while de-escalating and avoiding any unilateral steps that increase tension and the risk of accidents or incidents.”
Replying to a question on the recent destruction of the refugee camp in Moria, he said the U.S. has been coordinating with the Government of Greece and the European Union and other humanitarian partners on assessing the needs in reference to your question about the fires at the Moria refugee camp.
“ I think we put out a statement at the time of how saddened we were to hear about those fires further displacing thousands of refugees and asylum seekers. Over the past, I’d just – past year, I would just note we’ve provided more than $8 million in humanitarian assistance to assist vulnerable people in Greece. That includes about 5 million for COVID-19 pandemic response. I’m sure the subject may come up in the conversations with the foreign minister or with the prime minister, for that matter. I don’t have any particular new announcements at this point.”
On the MOU with Greece on science and technology, he said that they plan to sign it in Thessaloniki.
“The science and technology agreement will be another contribution to our overall momentum in the bilateral relationship, certainly will enhance U.S. research and intellectual property protections and deepens understanding of regional research and innovation trends, particularly in energy and diversification. This is going to build on our growing commercial and investment ties in a number of innovative sectors. One I would point out is Pfizer’s new facility in Thessaloniki where we hope to visit. And there’s investments there also by Microsoft, so the U.S. presence in Greece and in northern Greece in the Thessaloniki area has been growing. This is really the first agreement between the United States and Greece in this field of science and technology in more than 40 years. So, as I said already, the intellectual property rights protections elements of that are going to be key. There have obviously been a lot of developments in intellectual property in those 40 years. This is a great opportunity to highlight that and a reminder that Greece remains a key to Europe’s energy diversification as a hub for new infrastructure as well.”