US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said on Monday that Washington will use its diplomatic and military influence in the eastern Mediterranean to try to ease a volatile dispute between Greece and Turkey over energy rights.
“The United States and Greece reiterated their dedication to enhancing their close cooperation as NATO allies, using all appropriate means at their disposal in order to safeguard stability and security in the wider region,” the two countries said in a joint statement after Pompeo met with Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias.
“The United States and Greece… also reaffirmed their belief that maritime delimitation issues should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law.”
Relations between Greece and neighboring Turkey deteriorated sharply this year over allegedly disputed maritime boundaries and exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey sent a research vessel, accompanied by warships, to search for energy resources in an area Greece claims is on its own continental shelf and where it claims exclusive economic rights. Athens sent warships of its own to the area.
Pompeo welcomed the decision of Athens and Ankara to restart exploratory talks and said maritime disputes should be solved through dialogue, not demonstrations of power.
“We’ve watched the Greeks move in that direction trying to achieve that,” he told Greece’s ANA state news agency.
“We hope the Turkish government will see it the same way, and we hope the exploratory talks not only get kicked off right, but it’s important that they’re resolved in a way that delivers outcomes that each of the two nations find more than acceptable.”
European Union members will meet later this week to discuss imposing sanctions on Turkey for its actions.
Pompeo becomes first US Secretary of State to visit Thessaloniki:
Pompeo began a five-day regional tour of Greece in the northern city of Thessaloniki, making him the first US Secretary of State to visit the city.
Security was tight, with the venue of Pompeo’s meeting with Dendias changing from the originally planned location, a local ministry, to a hotel for security reasons, authorities said.
During his visit to Thessaloniki, Pompeo signed a bilateral science and technology agreement, and hosted energy sector business leaders for a discussion to highlight energy diversification and infrastructure projects in Greece.
He also joined members of Thessaloniki’s Jewish community to commemorate Yom Kippur at the local Jewish Museum, as police cordoned off a large section of the city center.
Later Monday, he flew from Thessaloniki to the Greek island of Crete where he is scheduled to meet with Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and visit a US naval base at Souda Bay on Tuesday.
About the time Pompeo was due to fly to Crete, about 1,500 people gathered in Thessaloniki’s center for two separate demonstrations to protest his visit, carrying signs reading “The hawk of war is not welcome in our country,” and “The murderers of the peoples are not welcome.”
Protesters later burnt a US flag in front of the American Consulate building.
Historic or not? Greece and US lost in translation over North Macedonia:
In the joint statement signed on Monday between the US and Greece, there were also confusing messages about whether Washington and Athens consider the North Macedonia name change deal (Prespa Agreement) historic or not.
The initial US-Greece statement referred to a “historic” Prespa Agreement. The English version of the statement was immediately published on the Greek foreign affairs ministry website but the Greek version was not published at all.
However, a couple of hours later, the word “historic” disappeared from the joint statement posted on both the website of the Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry and of the US embassy in Athens.
Neither side has so far provided an explanation for this change.