Ambassador Pyatt’s Interview with Ptisi and Diastima Magazine

January 24, 2022

Question:  You’ve served as Ambassador in Greece for a long time.  You’ve actually bridged three different United States administrations and two different Greek governments.  And I know that from when you first came to Greece that you had a lot of aspirations and hopes for a new page with Greek-American relations.  For example overcoming stereotypes and anti-Americanism in Greece.  How many of these hopes and aspirations were fulfilled?  And if there is something that is left for your successor.

Ambassador Pyatt:  A couple of thoughts.  First of all, in these jobs you always hope to leave the relationship, U.S. interests, the quality of our cooperation better than you found it.  And certainly from that perspective, whenever I’m finished here in Athens, and I don’t know when that will be, I’ll have great satisfaction about the progress that we’ve made in the broad bilateral relationship.

Defense was always a high priority on my list.  I talked about the defense relationship in Souda Bay in my confirmation statement to the U.S. Senate in June of 2016, if I’m remembering correctly.  And you remember, my very first reception here in Greece was on board the USS Mount Whitney, and that was a deliberate signal from the embassy side to make clear that I wanted to prioritize our defense and security cooperation, recognizing the strategic importance of the region that Greece occupies and the challenges that we face from our major rivals, but also the opportunities that I saw there to grow and expand our cooperation.

So it’s a source of great satisfaction that we were able to achieve that, that we’ve had not one but two major updates to our Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement.  That that expanded defense and security cooperation has happened under two very different political parties here in Greece, and has happened in a way that has seen reciprocal benefits to both countries, and not just in terms of what we do under the MDCA but other things we can talk about including the massive expansion of our security assistance to Greece, our IMET programs, our Excess Defense Articles programs which amount to tens of millions of dollars in transfers that have occurred over the past couple of years, with much more planned for the future, on top of the intensified pattern of exercises, and the really strong cooperation and profound respect between the leaders of our armed forces.

Every time I’m with General Wolters or General Cavoli, Admiral Burke, I’m reminded of how much they admire their Hellenic Armed Forces counterparts and the importance of that cooperation.  And I should have mentioned as well the excellent cooperation with General Harrigian and USAFE, especially since we started out talking about Iniochos.

Question:  You have probably answered most of my other questions, but let me stop – there is a common sense, opinion, among several Greeks that Greek-American relations are the best position that they have ever been.  What is in your opinion some areas that need to be further improved or they are not explored so far.

Ambassador Pyatt:  It’s not just the Greek view, it’s also an American view.  We’ve heard that from President Biden, from Secretary of State Blinken.  He made that very, very clear when he was hosting Foreign Minister Dendias for our Strategic Dialogue back in October.

And you will remember on the occasion of the Greek Bicentennial, President Biden himself underlined his hope to be the President that presides over the strongest U.S. relationship with Greece that our countries have ever seen.  Which is a very bold goal, if you think back how closely the United States has cooperated with Greece at some really pivotal moments in the country’s history.

Obviously we’re going to continue to invest in the defense and security relationship because that is fundamental to both of our countries’ interests.  I’m also very proud of all the progress that we’ve made in our economic trade and investment relationship.  And a lot of that reflects literally years of work going back to the Thessaloniki International Fair in 2018, the work we’ve done with American companies like Microsoft, Pfizer and Amazon Web Services and Digital Realty and Deloitte and all the others that you know about.

I know that there is more that we can do in this area in terms of our economic and investment relationship.  I was delighted to see Alex Patelis tweeting just yesterday that two more big deals are going to unfold in the next couple of days with U.S. investors.

And then the people-to-people relationship.  And I’m reminded of that every time I visit with a Greek counterpart or a Greek friend who’s studied in the United States.  These are the most enduring ties.

So the kind of work that we’re doing with Minister Kerameus to grow opportunities for educational exchanges; to help more Americans get to know Greece, to come here, to study here.  That is a fantastic force multiplier for what we do. It builds on the very strong Diaspora ties that we already enjoy, but expands it to an even broader window.

Because it’s Ptisi, I should also mention I’ve been very, very focused on trying to change the conversation in Washington about Greece, and in particular to inject the U.S.-Greece relationship into the broader U.S. and Washington based conversation about U.S. strategic interests on NATO’s southeastern flank; U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East.  And in that regard my efforts have been helped greatly by the growing ambition of Greek foreign policy.  The role of the Prespes Agreement, which had a really transformative impact in terms of how security analysts in Washington think about Greece’s role in the Western Balkans.

I remember when I was getting ready for this job meeting with former Secretary of State Albright and hearing her reflections on just how difficult some of these issues around the name were and how frustrating it was to her.  Now you see the very strong Washington support for the work that Greece is doing in Kosovo.  The Foreign Minister’s visit to Croatia just the other day.  And I saw just this morning the Foreign Minister was with Miroslav Lajcak coordinating with the European Union on the broader strategy for the Western Balkans where U.S. and Greek interests converge.

And then critically important, the Greek role in the Eastern Mediterranean.  The 3+1 process that we’re so strongly committed to but also the thriving Greek relationship with UAE, with Egypt, as far as India, all of which reinforces American strategic efforts and leverages the expanding opportunity for cooperation we see in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Levant on the back of the Abraham Accords, and the normalization of ties between Israel and many of its Arab neighbors.

So there’s a lot of goodness to be had, and as I said, it’s significant that you have think tanks like the Atlantic Council and the Brookings Institution which are now looking much more systematically at the role that Greece can play, and not just seeing Greece as a source of problems but rather as a net security provider in a strategically dynamic region.

Question:  I’d like to proceed with some questions regarding armaments.  So following a period of severe economic crisis during which Greece continued defense spending with amounts over the two percent of the GNP, the country pursued some defense programs recently including the new frigates, and the new fighters for the air force.  Some agreements are still pending.  The USA was unable to facilitate the Greek defense needs.

What are your thoughts about it?  Is U.S. policy too strict in comparison to the policies followed by some European countries like for instance France that ends up as an obstacle in some cases?

Ambassador Pyatt:  I want to start by taking issue with your question because I think it’s simply not true that the United States has failed to fulfill Greek defense requirements or has not been able to fulfill Greek defense requirements.

Question:  Some people think that, but we don’t necessarily agree with this statement.

Ambassador Pyatt:  I understand, and I welcome the opportunity to respond to it.  First of all, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, I would highlight the fantastic work that our two governments have done together under the U.S. Excess Defense Articles program.  If you look at what the United States has done, just during my five years here, much of the Hellenic Army’s CH-47 Chinook fleet was provided by the United States through EDA.  All of the OH-58 Kiowa program was provided through EDA.  And I worked this directly with General Stefanis and with Admiral Apostolakis, and I remember how skeptical some people were about that program.  And now, of course, this has become a great success.  It’s a great success for the Army and a system that’s being successfully integrated.

And just most recently in the past couple of months, we had the integration of the MK-5 Special Operations Boats which I know the Hellenic Special Forces, General Floros are very keen on.  And then the M-117s, the armored security vehicles for which we did the first deliveries back in December and where there’s a lot more coming.  An enormous program.  And we’ve got more in the pipeline coming.  Three island class patrol boats that Greece has requested. Twenty engines for the F-4s that Greece as requested, and those will work through our process.

So we have a very, very strong record of providing assistance.

And then in terms of actual sales through our Foreign Military Sales program, the United States, our FMS program is really unique because it provides full spectrum support in terms of training, in terms of maintenance, in terms of warranties, in terms of delivery.  All of these mechanisms which are there to ensure that in cases where the Hellenic Armed Forces choose to acquire a system from the United States, they know that that system is going to be delivered.  They know that it’s going to operate as advertised, and they know that it will be integrated with other NATO systems.

There is no instance, zero, that I am aware of on my watch where the United States has denied to the Hellenic Armed Forces a defense system that Greece requested.  I know there’s been a lot of misinformation about this.  You will remember my public response to the suggestion, for instance, that we had denied the Harpoon missile system for the Hellenic Air Force’s F-16s.  Not true.  We had already provided pricing and availability for those missiles that very summer.

So there’s a lot of misunderstanding in this area.  I know you talked about France, and I imagine you’re alluding to the frigates competition.  The key word there is competition.  You win some and you lose some.  And I congratulate the Hellenic Navy for how effectively they negotiated the pricing and the delivery of the Belharra frigates.  I hope very much that the program is fully successful because it will help to make the Hellenic Navy a stronger partner for the U.S. Navy and for 6th Fleet in this critical region.

I’ve also discussed with the National Security Advisor, with the Defence Minister, with General Floros, the United States’ response to Greece’s pricing and availability request both for the next generation frigate and for the upgraded MEKOs.  We have made what we consider is a very compelling proposal for the MEKO upgrades which would ensure those platforms have decades of life left in them and are utilized in the way that provides the greatest return on investment for the Hellenic Armed Forces in a way that’s fully integrated with other Greek naval procurements from the United States, for instance the MH-60 Romeo ASW helicopters and the upgraded P-3s.

We also have tabled, because Greece asked for it, our proposal for the Hellenic future frigate, the HF-2 modeled on the Littoral Combat Ship.  And if there’s an opportunity in the future we hope very much that the Hellenic Navy will look at that.

But I can tell you the suggestion that the United States has somehow throttled back or limited its cooperation with Greece for some external reason is simply untrue.

As I said, we have no illusions that we are going to win every major tender that the Hellenic Armed Forces goes forward with.  But also, having watched this process up close for nearly five and a half years now, I would challenge anybody who suggests that there is any other NATO partner of Greece that has been more generous in terms of the security assistances that have been provided or has been more ambitious in terms of the technologies that we are proposing for the future including significantly, of course, for the F-35 somewhere down the road.

Question:  Mr. Ambassador, you mentioned the Harpoon example.  Our readers keep asking us whether the SM-2 missile is available if Greece requests to buy them.  And also they’re asking about the Ticonderogas…

Ambassador Pyatt:  On system releases, we have to work that through our process including through congressional notification.  We only do so when we have a request from the Hellenic Armed Forces.  So I can’t answer any question that begins with “if Greece were to request” because that’s not how our system operates.

On the question of excess defense articles, you mentioned the Ticonderogas.  Again, short term on naval systems we have the delivery of the MK-5s and now we have a Hellenic Navy request for the island class patrol vessels.  The U.S. Coast Guard has invited Greece to come this spring to perform a visual inspection on those island class boats which is exactly how things unfolded, for instance, with the M-117s.

On major capital ships, we have an added hurdle that is involved which is a congressional legislation requirement which comes into play for major ships.  We have informed Greece that there are possibilities in the near future for possible major ship excess defense articles including a debate which is unfolding in our Congress right now on the Littoral Combat Ships.  But that is a debate which is not yet concluded so we have to wait and see how it’s going to unfold.

I would note that there is strong congressional support for the U.S. security partnership with Greece.  So the fact that members of Congress themselves are encouraging the administration to do as much as possible to grow our security support, our security assistance relationship with Greece is very helpful.

That’s been a significant factor in a small but critically important program called IMET, the International Military Education and Training program.  When I came to Greece the IMET program was very small and was facing limits.  Today Congress has grown the IMET envelope for Greece in a way that has allowed us to expand the scope and impact of that program.

And that is how we grow the future generations of that professional military partnership that I talked about.  There is nothing that has a bigger impact on the evolution of the relationship at the military-to-military level than having a Greek soldier or airman or naval officer travel to the United States, live in the U.S. for six months or more, train with their counterparts and develop those personal relationships.  And oftentimes those people who then move up over time.

I remember talking to a now very senior Hellenic Air Force officer, a general officer who’s in a senior leadership position, who talked to me about his time 20 years ago in California training in Lemoore and learning about how our Air Force prepared their pilots for the future.  So those are the kind of investments that we want to continue to make.

On the frigates and the Navy relationship in particular, I want to make sure that whatever decisions the Hellenic Navy makes for future procurements have space for procurement from the United States because that’s how we continue to grow that strong Navy to Navy relationship which is so visible.  For instance every time we have a carrier battle group in the Eastern Mediterranean, like we have with the Harry S. Truman battle group right now, where the Truman is working with the Hellenic Navy, with frigates, with submarines, and the Hellenic Navy is fully integrated into the battle group.

We’re going to continue to work on this, and we do it not for commercial reasons.  We do it because it’s in both of our countries’ security.  We want to see a strong and secure Greece because that makes NATO stronger and more secure and thereby advances America’s interests.

Question:  F-35.  Greek officials including the Prime Minister have expressed the interest for Greece to procure F-35s.  What is your opinion about the path that Greece has to follow in order to join the JSF club and what kind of commitments sort of in order or a path where Greece can follow, can find the Greek Hellenic Air Force with F-35s?

Ambassador Pyatt:  Let me start with the most important point which is Greece will be part of the F-35 program.  I think that’s clearly understood by the government, by the Hellenic Air Force, but also by the U.S. government.  You’ve heard expressions to that effect not just from me but from senior officials of the State Department.

We will have a team from the U.S. Air Force, from the F-35 program office coming here to Athens next month precisely to provide the Greek government with informational briefings on the requirements for moving forward with the F-35 program.

I have said on a number of occasions that it’s roughly a five-year timeline from the signature of the LOA, the Letter of Offer and Acceptance, to the delivery of the aircraft.

There are a series of steps that happen during that period of time.  The manufacture of the aircraft, of course; the development of the infrastructure here in Greece; the construction of the security envelope for that very special platform; the training of the maintainers; the training of the pilots who would travel to the United States to be trained on Greek F-35s before the aircraft are deployed here in Greece.

This is all going to happen.  The timing is something that will be determined by Greek budgetary factors.  But it’s significant that we have, again, a strong signal of congressional support for moving ahead with this program including as reflected in the recent U.S.-Greece Defense and Interparliamentary Partnership Act which was spearheaded by Senator Menendez and Senator Rubio on the Senate side.

So this is all going to happen.  And our view is that this is a natural progression of both the long and very proud history of U.S.-Greece cooperation in the Air Force domain, but also the steps that Greece has been taking recently including, and we shouldn’t lose sight of the F-16 Viper upgrade program and all the capacity and skills updates that that program is providing as well.

Question:  Thank you.  Let’s to back on facilities and bases.  During your presence in Greece as an ambassador, the facilities, not necessarily bases in Greece, were multiplied and there were several occasions that the United States forces were trained in Greece.  Are there more requests for extended facilities or other locations including the Greek islands that sometimes I think you mentioned that might be useful to the United States armed forces?

Ambassador Pyatt:  The crown jewel of our defense cooperation is an island, it’s Souda Bay.  Which is an exceptional facility.  Unique in the world, unique in NATO in terms of what it provides, in terms of its strategic location, in terms of the colocation of the airfield, the carrier capable pier, the deployments that we’ve been doing there of our nuclear submarines, the excellent, excellent cooperation that we have there with the Hellenic Navy pier side and topside with the Hellenic Air Force.

So we’ve been very proud, I’ve been very proud on my watch to see the steady expansion of that envelope.  Again, it’s worth noting that all of that growth began under the Syriza government.  I remember my first visit to the air base in Larissa was with Minister Kamenos and then CHOD Apostolakis.  It’s very significant that last year we were able to write the Larissa facility into our MDCA.

Similarly with Stefanovikio, with Volos, with Alexandroupolis, with the expansion of the locations where we can make investments which enhance NATO capabilities.  And it’s very clear if you look back to both the 2019 and 2021 expansions of our Defense Cooperation Agreement, in both cases we have delivered in the sense that we have made investments that have improved those facilities.  We are using them more intensively in a way that sends an important message to all of our adversaries.  So this has been a great success story.

Obviously the strategic picture in Europe right now is extraordinarily dynamic.  We’re all watching the situation with Ukraine and Russia and you’ve seen some of the press reports about discussions that are going on right now as we speak in Washington, DC, regarding even greater U.S. deployments to NATO’s eastern flank.

It’s hard to make predictions about the future in such a dynamic environment.  And of course everything that we do in Greece is by, with and through the decisions of the Hellenic government and the Hellenic parliament.  So we’re not imposing ourselves here.  We come as guests and we go where we’re invited by the Greek government.

But I am extraordinarily proud of the quality of cooperation.  When I was up in Alexandroupolis last month, in December, for our big rotation there with Minister Panagiotopoulos and General Floros and many other Greek military leaders, what really shined through to all of us was the excellent quality of the partnership between the U.S. units that were working on that operation and their Hellenic Armed Forces and Port of Alexandroupolis counterparts.  Everybody was extraordinarily proud of everything that they were accomplishing together.

And it’s that quality of partnership, that’s what makes NATO so strong.  It’s not that we’re coming and asking for something which Greece is then providing, it’s what we’re doing together.

Question:  On the same subject.  Russia is expressing concerns about this cooperation, about the expansion of the military presence of the United States in Greece.  Of course Russia is asking for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, NATO forces through Bulgaria and Romania, but what are your thoughts and comments about all these concerns?  Even though Russian officials recognize that Greece is a NATO member after all.

Ambassador Pyatt:  I’m not going to speak for the Russian government or try to get inside President Putin’s head.  But what I would emphasize is that our cooperation at Alexandroupolis benefits Greece.  It benefits NATO.  It benefits the United States.  It’s something we’ve agreed to.

I would also note as regards to Alexandroupolis and Eastern Macedonia and Thrace in particular, this is a region which when I first visited there which I think was in 2017, felt very isolated, very distant.  And I’m very proud of the strategic impact that our broad cooperation in Alexandroupolis has had.  Not just in terms of the MDCA but also in terms of the interest of American bidders in the privatization of the port and the very ambitious vision that the two American bidders have for expanding the logistical role that Alexandroupolis plays, something that I discussed just last week with Minister Karamanlis.  Using the combination of the port, the railhead, the connection up to Bulgaria to send cargo and materiels as far north as the Danube and from the Danube into Central Europe.

So we’ve really, together we are redrawing the strategic map of a region of Greece that is right next to Bulgaria, right next to one of those countries that the Russian government has named when they outlined their strategic vision.

So it’s a very good signal for NATO and a good example of how we can work together to deliver a strategic message that reinforces our shared commitment to the alliance and helps to send a deterrent message to those who would seek to weaken us.

Question:  Mr. Ambassador, there is an issue that hasn’t been discussed much in the public domain.  Do you think that Russia and China are trying to get involved in Greece’s internal affairs, and possibly her foreign policy?  And if so in what ways?  Other than disinformation campaigns that we’ve reported here in Greece on multiple occasions, have you noticed any attempts of coercion, since, China for instance, has in the past used its economic footprint to influence decisions at an EU level?

Ambassador Pyatt:  Those are two very different countries with different strategic visions, so let me talk about them separately.

On Russia, I can’t do any better than to point to the Greek Foreign Ministry and the decision that the Greek Foreign Ministry under the Syriza government made to expel four Russians because of their involvement in Greek internal affairs.  Their efforts to undermine the Prespes Agreement.  Their efforts to intervene in the church.  And it’s not me saying it, it’s the Greek Foreign Ministry which took the very strong measure of expelling these Russian officials because of their inappropriate activities.

On the question of China, our focus on the issue and in particular some of the United States’ concerns about non-transparent Chinese investments in various places around Europe, we are highly reassured by the approach that the Mitsotakis government has taken.  I remember in 2020, in January of 2020 when Prime Minister Mitsotakis was in Washington, DC he spoke very clearly about Greece’s plans for its 5G infrastructure and in particularly the intention to use only trusted vendors for the core of Greece’s 5G network.

Likewise, on the question that gets so much attention of Cosco in Piraeus, we’ve had similar issues in the United States.  And I was reminded of that at Christmas time when I was back in Long Beach, Los Angeles.  It’s the largest port complex in the United States with a significant Cosco footprint.  But our investment screening mechanisms have been applied there.

The key from an American standpoint is to both secure strategically important sectors, and 5G is an excellent example.  And then create alternatives.  So that’s why I have been so focused, for instance, on working with the Development Finance Corporation to make sure that Greece’s strategically important shipyard and shipbuilding sector doesn’t fall under untrustworthy control, which is basically what happened in the case of Piraeus where there were no good alternatives and the Troika was saying that the government had to sell some of its shares, and Cosco came in, basically viewing the Port of Piraeus as a distressed asset.

We want to create a positive alternative narrative and that’s where the example of the U.S. Development Finance Corporation’s engagement on Elefsina or the positive role that’s being played by major American technology companies like Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Digital Realty, Deloitte, is so significant.  Because it helps to give the Greek government options and it allows the Greek government to take a strategic approach to the screening of its investment partners.

Question:  You covered most of the rest of the questions, but closely to economic development is energy.  How do you see the position of Greece as an energy hub, as an energy producer?  After recent developments and several disinformation that it was introduced in this area.

Ambassador Pyatt:  I’ll say a couple of things.  First is that Greece has become one of the United States’ most important partners in Southern and Eastern Europe to advance the longstanding U.S. goal of energy security and diversification of sources and routes in Europe.  This is an issue that’s getting a lot of attention right now around developments in Russia, and you have the International Energy Agency talking about its concerns with Russia’s manipulation of gas and energy as a strategic lever.

Greece has over a number of years invested in significant new infrastructure that helps to weaken that leverage, especially for the countries of Southeastern Europe.  The TAP pipeline is the most prominent example, but I would also point to the Alexandroupolis FSRU for which a final investment decision should be unfolding in the weeks ahead.  The expansion of the Revithoussa Terminal which has played a critical role in helping to facilitate the arrival of expanded cargos of LNG, creating optionality for Greece, is the sole reason why the United States both last year and in 2020 accounted for close to half of Greece’s LNG imports, because of the expanded capacity that an expanded Revithousa and in the future the Alexandroupolis FSRU provide.

And then the way in which Greece is now leveraging its location and its infrastructure not just to facilitate energy security here, but also in the wider region as you see with the imminent completion of the IGB, the Bulgaria Interconnector; hoped-for progress on the North Macedonia Interconnector.  And just last week I was discussing with the Kosovo Foreign Minister the option of Kosovo also using Greece as an entry point to begin both cleaning up its economy, its energy economy, and also developing energy diversification.

I would add on that, in apropos of cleaning up, the United States’ very strong support for the leadership that Greece and Prime Minister Mitsotakis have exercised in the area of climate change.  I know it’s easy to forget when we look outside and Athens is covered in snow, but it was only last August that we were all living through the most horrific wildfires that Greece has ever seen, and that was a concrete reflection of the climate emergency that we all face and Greece’s vulnerability because of its geographic location to the effects of climate change in terms of wildfires, in terms of coastal erosion, in terms of sea temperature change, in terms of these horrific weather events like the fires of last August.

So we applaud the bold vision that Prime Minister Mitsotakis has sent out to accelerate the phaseout of lignite.  This is exactly the kind of ambitious change that the U.S. government has encouraged all of our partners, and especially our industrialized partners in Europe to embrace.  We’re trying to do the same thing in the U.S. and it’s not easy.  So we applaud the leadership that the Prime Minister has exercised.

You alluded, of course, to the great debate over East Med energy issues.  And on this I would emphasize first and foremost that the only thing that has changed about U.S. policy is that in January of 2021 the United States rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement.  So just like Prime Minister Mitsotakis, the Biden administration is strongly committed to reflecting our climate agenda in all of our strategic energy policy activities.

We are extraordinarily strong in our support for the cooperation between Greece, Israel and Cyprus.  That’s reflected in our support for the 3+1 among our governments, and it’s reflected in our support for electricity interconnectors like the Euro-Asia and Euro-Africa interconnectors.  These will happen and they will help to accelerate the energy transition not just in Greece but also we hope to build on the natural synergies between Egypt, Israel, North Africa and the electricity consumers in Greece and farther into the European grid.

That’s the only thing that has changed.  We believe, and this was reflected in the conversations that we’ve been having over many months with the Greek government, that there are real doubts about the viability, the commercial and environmental viability of a major new piece of energy infrastructure like the East Med Pipeline.  But that does not change one bit our support for the energy cooperation between those three governments.

Question:  Mr. Ambassador, what other alternatives exist in the energy cooperation between the three governments other than the EastMed pipeline?

Ambassador Pyatt:  I already talked about our support for the two interconnectors.  I’ve also talked to a number of Greek companies about the prospects that they see for expanded renewable generation in Egypt, aiming at customers here in Europe.  We also see short term mechanisms to deliver East Med gas to consumers in Europe that does not require this very expensive and very long lead time pipeline.

For instance, this idea of a virtual pipeline between Alexandria, Egypt and Greece.  So you would have gas from the Eastern Mediterranean delivered in the very near term to Egypt where it could be liquified and them shipped to Revithoussa or Alexandroupolis or elsewhere in Europe.

Ultimately the market is going to work these things out.  And you will find the United States a strong supporter of the government-to-government cooperations to facilitate this.

So there are a lot of further possibilities.  There’s also a natural complementarity in terms of the seasonality of winds and sunshine in this part of the world compared to the relative lack of winds in Israel.  And of course the regularity of solar.  So the cost of solar in Egypt is extraordinarily low compared to alternatives elsewhere.  So it’s a matter of building the infrastructure to bring that very low cost solar electricity from Egypt to places where demand exists like Greece and elsewhere in Europe.

Question:  I think we covered a lot of things.  I don’t know if you have something that you would like to say that we left out.

Ambassador Pyatt:  Only to emphasize, as I said at the beginning, first of all, appreciation of the great partnership with Ptisi but also the importance, the ongoing importance, enduring importance of our defense and security partnership.  It’s a partnership which is based on trust, based on years of working together, and where I’m quite confident that we have not yet reached the limits.  That there is even more that we can do together, and I know speaking for the U.S. government, from President Biden on down, there’s a strong commitment to continue doing that.

As I said, when I hear from General Milley about the quality of his conversations and his relationship with General Floros, or I head from Secretary Blinken his interpretation and direction that he gets from President Biden for growing the partnership with Foreign Minister Dendias.

And the same applies to Minister Panagiotopoulos.  And we’re very hopeful that we’ll be able to get Minister Panagiotopoulos to Washington very soon in order to meet with Secretary of Defense Austin to continue developing these ties.  Because there’s a lot that we can do together and the sky’s the limit.

Question:  Thank you.  Oh, one last probably personal question.  You’ve traveled to a lot of places and you simply enjoy your stay in Greece.  Would you ever consider to come back and stay even for extended vacation?  If yes, what place you would choose?

Ambassador Pyatt:  I am certain that I will come back.  My wife and I have treasured our five and a half years here.  We’ve been to a lot of places, as you say, but we have some that we haven’t visited yet.  I always say, every time I think I’ve reached “this is as good as you can get in Greece,” I discover something else.

We had a delightful early season last June in Amorgos which is spectacular.  So I’m definitely not going to rule out anything and I’m always open to recommendations from my Greek friends about what I still need to explore.

Question:  Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador.  Thank you for your time, for the opportunity, and we hope we’ll contribute to further cooperation.  Thank you.

Ambassador Pyatt:  Thank you.