Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a 48 hour visit to Athens, during which he signed an extended defense agreement with Greece. He was received by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, his counterpart Nikos Dendiaas and Defense Minister Panagiotopoulos.
Dendias and Pompeo signed a protocol of amendment to the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) between the two countries which relates to the use of Souda Base and the air bases of Stefanovikeio and Larissa in central Greece and the port of Alexandroupoli. Pompeo said that today is a new day for the relations between USA and Greece, a relationship that has truly never been stronger. Both officials emphasized the importance of the deal in promoting stability in the broader region while Pompeo indicated that it was not related to Turkey’s activities.
During a joint press conference with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, Mike Pompeo sent a strong message to Turkey by condemning its provocations in Eastern Mediterranean.
Pompeo noted that USA understands the risks as they are aware of the activities taking place and in this context “we are working to get the parties, everyone, to de-escalate and find the outcomes that are mutually agreeable”.
The US official stressed noted that “We’ve make clear that operations in international waters are governed by a set of rules. We have told the Turks that illegal drilling is unacceptable and we will continue to take diplomatic actions to make sure that we do, as we do always, ensure that lawful activity takes place”.
“We want to make sure that rules govern international exploration in the Mediterranean Seas’ energy resources and that no country can hold Europe hostage”, he underlined.
The strategic upgrading of our cooperation with the US constitutes a guarantee of safety, stability and also a source of growth and prosperity with the Greek-US relations reaching a historic peak” said Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, underlining that “today we are inaugurating a new era”.
Expressing his satisfaction over the signing of the Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement (MDCA), Dendias noted that “the strategic collaboration between the two countries is being significantly upgraded while in parallel our common volition to guarantee the effectiveness of our defence potentials is highlighted in the best possible way”.
Dendias said that this agreement constitutes a stabilising factor in the region, supports Greece and the bilateral relations and serves the US but also operates as a factor of stability in the wider region and as a factor that does not turn against anyone, but it exists and is visible in the context of the international rules and is a message to anyone who believes that can function in the region beyond the rules of the international law and the law of the Sea.
The Greek minister also sent a clear message to Turkey. “We must and should all operate in the context of the international rules. We are truly seeking good neighbourly relations with everyone and we understand all the positions but we always operate in the context of the international law”.
Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos welcomed on Saturday at the military camp “Papagou” in Athens Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
According to a ministry announcement, Greece and USA’s volition for the further strengthening of their cooperation in the sectors of defence and safety was reaffirmed at Panagiotopoulos and Pompeo’s meeting. In parallel, they underlined their wish for the enhancement of the bilateral cooperation for the promotion of safety and stability in the eastern Mediterranean as well as for the effective addressing of the common provocations and threats in the wider region.
Additionally, the two officials discussed the prospects and opportunities created by the new Greek-US agreement (MDCA) for the deepening of the bilateral collaboration in defence and technical defence sector with emphasis on the role and the development prospects of the Hellenic Defence Industry and the US investments in infrastructures and supplies with aim this project to be also beneficial for the national economy.
Panagiotopoulos, said the announcement, made a special reference to the Greek initiatives for the development of trilateral forms of regional defence cooperation with countries of the region with aim the safety, the stability and the prosperity of the countries of the region.
Q & As of Secretary Michael R. Pompeo
and Greek Foreign Minister Nikolaos Dendias
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) The ministers will take a rather limited number of questions. Yes, please. Mr. Michalis Ignatiou from OPEN TV channel.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I’m Michalis Ignatiou from OPEN TV. And I wanted to ask you this: Prime Minister Mitsotakis spoke to you today about the provocations by Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. And as we understand, he asked for your help. Is it possible to tell us what was your answer? If you share his concerns about this? And also I have another question. Your people in Washington told us many times that buying S-400 by Turkey means sanctions. Why we don’t see any sanctions today, Mr. Secretary? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’ll answer your second question first. We are having conversations with the Turks. We’ve made clear our view with respect to the S-400 and U.S. law, and we’ll continue to always make sure that we do that.
With respect to Turkish – you’re speaking about their actions off of Cyprus with respect to energy, is that right? I won’t tell you what I told him, because I don’t talk about private conversation, but I can certainly tell you how America thinks about this. We’ve made clear that operations in international waters are governed by a set of rules. We have told the Turks that illegal drilling is unacceptable, and we’ll continue to take diplomatic action to make sure that we do as we do always: ensure that the lawful activity takes place in every space where international law governs.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Mr. Athanassopoulos, To Vima daily.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, welcome to Athens. I would like to follow up to my Greek colleague’s question, and I would like to ask you: Would the United States consider offering some clear and unwavering guarantees, political or other ones, in order to support Greece against Turkey’s aggressive stance both in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Aegean Sea? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: You actually asked a really easy question; I’ll ask the foreign minister to chime in a little bit, too. We never get out in front of our diplomacy and talk about things we will never do or things that we intend to do until we have made decisions about that. That would certainly apply here as well. But you should know we understand the risks, we’re very well aware of the activities that are taking place. We’re working closely to try to accomplish a couple things. We made clear that the militarization of these conflicts is not the right direction to go, so we’re working to get the parties to – everyone to de-escalate and find a set of outcomes that are mutually agreeable. But a couple of boundaries, including what I said earlier: We can’t let anyone – Turkey is the topic of the day – engage in illegal drilling activity.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay. Jessica Donati, Wall Street Journal.
QUESTION: I do. We were directed to – we’ve prepared one. So for the foreign minister, we would like to know, since you have just signed this pact, what concretely you hope to get from the United States out of this. We’re aware that Greece is already supporting the U.S. in operations in places like Syria, places like Libya, and we know that the U.S. relationship is tested with Turkey when it comes to Syria. So do you think that there’s any space for Greece to contribute? And how do you see this pact expanding?
FOREIGN MINISTER DENDIAS: (Via interpreter) Thank you for the question. I want to be accurate. This agreement has three facets, three aspects to us. First, there is a national aspect of this agreement. To Greece, this is an absolutely beneficial agreement. It is a good agreement because it enhances the American imprint in Greece, and this is a positive imprint. And then it helps us in the sense that there will be transfer of know-how from the States to Greece, and for the benefit of the armed forces of Greece. And third, this is a wider parameter in favor of economic activity in this country. But when it comes to the wider context of relations within NATO, and again, when it comes to the wider role we wish to be playing in this region as we’re exiting the crisis – and as I’ve said before while expressing the sentiments on the thoughts of Prime Minister Mitsotakis, we are getting out of this crisis context.
And so this is a pact and agreement that acts as a parameter of stability. This is helping Greece out. It’s strengthening Greece. It’s certainly catering to the needs, if you will, of the States, but it’s certainly helping consolidate Greece as a pillar of stability and peace within the wider region. And of course, this is a very good thing within the context of rules that have been provided for.
And this very agreement is also a good tool and a good message communicated to anyone who in this region thinks they could work against international law and the law of the sea in this region. We believe that everyone should be working on the basis of international law and legitimacy. The world community – humanity, mankind if you will – has put behind it the days of using cannons, and now this is the time of bringing closer nations together. We believe that any leadership who fails to understand that is certainly living in a different era. But we sincerely wish to have good neighborly relations with everyone. We sympathize, we understand the position of everyone, but nonetheless when it comes to the 21st century, the absolute keys in the 21st century is the international law.