Ambassador Pyatt’s On the Record Briefing with Greek Journalists following the 3rd U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue

Ambassadors Residence, Athens, Greece
October 18, 2021

Ambassador Pyatt:  Thanks everybody for joining us this afternoon.  I’m glad I brought the good weather back from Washington, DC.  I gather I missed a little bit of excitement on Thursday.

I’m going to keep these opening remarks relatively short so we can have a good, thorough conversation.  And what I would emphasize to begin with is that we had a very good week last week.  This is my third Strategic Dialogue and it is by far the most productive and the richest that we have engaged in since we began this process in 2018.  But very importantly, and here I’m going to quote from one of my senior Washington interagency colleagues who was part of the conversations in the Strategic Dialogue, when they said, “Relations between Greece and the United States are at a peak, but they are not at the summit.”  There is a clear sense on both sides that we are in a very positive place in terms of the relationship, but also that we have a very ambitious vision for the future.

I’m going to protect the confidentiality of the private discussions, but what I would emphasize from Foreign Minister Dendias’s meeting with Secretary of State Blinken was the really outstanding interpersonal relationship between the two of them.  Both of them spoke with great warmth.  Secretary Blinken spoke with great knowledge about everything that Greece has been through, but also spoke very strongly about President Biden’s commitment to the U.S.-Greece relationship, his knowledge of the U.S.-Greece relationship, and the State Department leadership’s commitment to building on the very strong foundation that we have established.

I know that for a lot of you back here the headline was the new MDCA, and I’ll be happy to talk about that a little bit when we get to questions and answers.  But what I would really emphasize is the broader Strategic Dialogue conversation that we had and the quality of the exchange that took place across all of the pillars to include energy and climate, counterterrorism and law enforcement, trade and investment, all the things that we’re doing together.

And I will say I was deeply, deeply impressed by the quality of the lineup that the Greek government brought to Washington, DC:  the experts from the Ministry of Justice, from the Ministry of Civil Protection, the Ministry of Defense, from the Ministry of Energy, from the Ministry of Climate and Civil Protection.  Just really across the board.  Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Citizens Protection, and of course the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  This was really an all-star team from the Greek government and that was readily apparent both in the quality of the Greek presentations as well as the quality of the dialogue that took place.  And I know my Washington colleagues were all impressed by that.

One advantage of having such a broad swath of the Greek interagency in Washington last week is that it created an opportunity for lots of in-depth sidebar conversations.  For instance, the senior delegation from the Pentagon that was part of the Strategic Dialogue was able to sit down with Ambassador Angelopoulos and follow up on many of the topics.  Likewise Jose Fernandez, our new Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, with Deputy Foreign Minister Fragogiannis to talk about trade and investment relationship and the 3+1.  And of course National Security Advisor Dokos with his counterparts at the White House.

For me, that was part of the real value here.  This was probably the most intensive week of engagement between our two governments that we’ve had certainly since the beginning of the Biden administration just in terms of the candor and the in-depth character of the exchanges that took place on all of these different pillars.

And in that regard what we did last week really fulfilled the vision that we had when we established the Strategic Dialogue.  That is to pull together the different strands of our cooperation under a political chapeau and to use that political leadership provided by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Secretary of State to drive forward all of the expert level conversations which is what really makes the work happen in terms of advancing our bilateral relationship.

I should say just a word about how valuable it was in my view to have not only Foreign Minister Dendias there, but also National Security Advisor Dokos.  I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone that the think tank community is very well represented in President Biden’s senior national security leadership so Thanos already knew Derek Chollet who is the Counselor to the Secretary of State.  He already knew Karen Donfried, both of them from their work at the German Marshall Fund.  Also from the German Marshall Fund, Laura Rosenberger who is the Senior Director for China at the National Security Council, somebody else Thanos met with.  And Ambassador Phil Gordon, the Deputy National Security Advisor to our Vice President who Thanos also was able to meet with.  So that added real value.

One other thing that added great value for me, and here I’ll finish up my opening remarks and I think I’ve kept to my goal of staying under ten minutes, is that for all of our new national security leadership in the Biden administration, this was really the first opportunity to update on how much Greece has changed.  The degree to which Greece’s emergence from the economic crisis.  The degree to which the Prespes Agreement and the opening of Greece’s relations with the Western Balkans has created opportunities for the United States and opportunities for U.S. policy.

We have a lot of new personalities.  Our State European Affairs Bureau is all new, so it’s important that Karen Donfried, who is the new Assistant Secretary, and all of her Deputy Assistant Secretaries, had the opportunity to hear from the Greek delegation.

Likewise I mentioned Jose Fernandez who’s going to play a very important role in the State Department because of his leadership as the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs.  So a person who’s not only the counterpart to Deputy Minister Fragogiannis but also the person in the best position to drive forward all the progress that we’re making on energy, on technology, on knowledge-based investment.

I already mentioned Derek Chollet.  Derek plays a very important role in the Biden administration.  He is the Counselor to the Secretary of State, and in that regard he is both the Secretary’s inner advisor but he’s also a problem solver, and he has been on the job Since January 20th, from day one.  He was the one who hosted the lunch with Thanos Dokos and Deputy Foreign Minister Fragogiannis which really covered the whole world — from Asia and the Indo-Pacific and U.S. and Greek strategy there to North Africa, of course the Eastern Mediterranean, the Western Balkans.

All of these conversations, and here I’ll start to finish up, what they reflected is the changing geometry of Greek foreign policy.  A Greek foreign policy which is no longer constrained by a decade of economic crisis and is no longer focused just on one neighbor, but rather is thinking broadly about how to advance our shared interests in stability, in democracy, in rule of law across a broad swath of territory that goes all the way from the Western Balkans and the Black Sea down across the Eastern Mediterranean into North Africa, across through the Gulf and as far as the Indian Ocean.

The United States has a foreign policy strategy which is grounded and anchored in our partnership with our closest allies.  Greece is clearly one of those closest allies.  And this Strategic Dialogue was an opportunity to have very in-depth conversations broadly about where we can go together.

The last point I’ll make, I was not part of Foreign Minister Dendias’s meetings on Capitol Hill, but it was obviously very useful that he was able to have the kind of conversations that he had with Senator Van Hollen, with Congressman Sarbanes, with other leaders in the House and the Senate.  And then also the think tank work that he did.  I know he did a panel with CEPA which I think is going to air online tomorrow.  There was also a very good Atlantic Council Chatham House rules session with National Security Advisor Dokos and some of the key folks around the Atlantic Council who we’ve all been working with on issues of regional stability and energy.  So it was very good in that regard.

Lastly one other new personality I will mention to you who was part of Secretary Blinken’s meeting with Foreign Minister Dendias and then also participated in the Defense and Security pillar of the Strategic Dialogue is Jessica Lewis.  Jessica is our new State Department Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs.  She also had the opportunity to have a separate bilateral conversation with the MFA Secretary General, Themos Demiris, which was extremely valuable to me because Jessica sits on top of everything that the State Department does in terms of arms transfers, security assistance, International Military Education and Training (IMET), 3-3-3, also excess defense articles.  So she is a key ally.  She’s somebody I have worked with in the past because she was previously the Chief of Staff for Senator Menendez, so she needed no briefing on Greece per se.  But this was a great chance for her to dive in substantively to that aspect of the relationship.

Many of you had the opportunity to deal in the past with Clark Cooper who was Secretary Pompeo’s Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs.  So Jessica is Clark’s successor, and obviously we’re delighted that she is confirmed now and very much part of Team Greece.  I will finish there and happy to take questions in whatever direction would be most useful to everybody.

Question:  What is, for the average Greek citizen let’s say, the meaning of this agreement, which sounds quite important as you say concerning U.S.-Greece affairs and relations.  The question is, is there or will there be some kind of mechanism in case of attack, in case of threat, that Greeks would be looking at?  Could we make more concrete, let’s say, the meaning of this agreement for anybody to understand, what’s new there?

Ambassador Pyatt:  Let me say a couple of things.  First of all, I view the enhanced MDCA, and the letter from Secretary Blinken to Prime Minister Mitsotakis that goes along with it, as more of an incremental improvement as opposed to a revolution.  That is to say the expanded MDCA and Secretary Blinken’s letter builds on the strong foundation which we established with the first amendment to the MDCA in 2019 and, frankly, on the great progress that we made in U.S.-Greece defense relations under SYRIZA.

The new MDCA goes farther in particular by bringing our defense cooperation agreement into alignment with the standards of other NATO agreements.  It also provides a foundation for the United States both to direct additional investments and infrastructure as we’ve already done.  And if you look back at the facilities that we added in 2019 – Alexandroupoli, Stefanovikeio, Larissa.  In all three locations we were already making improvements to support U.S. and NATO military operations.  Now we’ve expanded that envelope.  But we’ve also added the certainty that comes with a longer term.

Everybody has seen the letter from Secretary of State Blinken to Prime Minister Mitsotakis.  The letter speaks for itself.  I’m not going to try to parse the language there, but you see in that letter a very strong U.S. and Greek commitment to NATO, to our NATO Alliance, and also an appreciation of the Greek government’s commitment to dialogue, to resolving disputes peacefully, and the shared belief that the Mediterranean should be a region of cooperation rather than conflict.

So again, for the everyday Greek citizen what this improvement of the MDCA signals is that Greece’s relations with the United States are stronger than they ever have been.  That the United States is committed to our alliance with Greece.  And that Greece’s own reputation has been substantially strengthened by a series of steps that the Greek government has taken over the years to reinforce its role as a source of solutions.  Its contributions in the Western Balkans.  Its contributions in the Eastern Mediterranean.  And its efforts now to expand that region of cooperation even more broadly.

So that’s how I would explain this to a regular citizen trying to understand what does this letter really mean.

Question:  Mr. Ambassador, did you discuss anything about Turkey? Because we saw a lot of discussion in Turkey about the U.S.-Greek agreement.

Ambassador Pyatt:  One of the things that was striking to me was, and I mentioned this changing geometry of Greek foreign policy.  Of course Turkey was a factor.  It’s a major factor in the politics, in the security environment of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea and the Western Balkans.  But by no means was that the preoccupation.  I thought, Vassilis, your own interview with Foreign Minister Dendias did a good job of drawing out that idea.  That this agreement is not directed at any one or any state, and that Greece’s foreign policy is not defined by its relations with Ankara.  It’s defined by a wider vision of democracy, of stability, of rule of law, of creating opportunities for prosperity.

You would not be surprised by the messages that the Greek government delivered at various levels and in various settings.  Our conversations with Deputy Foreign Minister Fragogiannis, he remains strongly committed to the positive agenda that he’s been developing with Onal, something the United States emphatically supports.

We talked about the question in the context of the new agenda item that we added to the Strategic Dialogue, which is the one focused on climate crisis and remediation.  We talked about the shared interests that Greece and Turkey, and the shared vulnerability that Greece and Turkey have to climate-induced wildfires and all of the environmental challenges that that creates, and the opportunities that clearly are there for enhanced cooperation on things like fire suppression and water drop and all of the issues that we all lived through together back in August.

But by no means was Turkey the dominant factor in the conversations.  To the contrary, the dominant factor in conversations was the strength of the relationship between Greece and the United States and our shared interests and shared strategic outlook.

Question:  Ambassador thank you so much!  If I may ask three questions.  First, if you can throw us some light on the Fernandez-Fragogiannis discussions, if there are any plans there we should expect in the future. Second, what you discussed on China.  And what are the next steps in Alexandroupoli?  Should we expect any new installations, some projects there?

Ambassador Pyatt:  All three really good questions.  Let me do them in order.

First of all on Fernandez-Fragogiannis, it was a really excellent conversation and it took place in three different contexts.  One was a bilateral sidebar between the two gentlemen.  And then the role that both of them played chairing the session focused on trade and investment.  And then also the discussions with Derek Chollet where Minister Fragogiannis led on this tour d’horizon that covered the whole world.  I was really encouraged by the conversations between Jose and Minister Fragogiannis.  They have a similar background.  Both of them come out of the private sector and they had a very similar outlook.

Jose Fernandez is somebody who I worked with closely when he was the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs in the Clinton State Department.  Because of that role he knew Greece in its most difficult times.  And when he and I were talking before the Dialogue, one of the points he made to me is that it’s relatively rare to have a real success story like the success story that the Greek economic recovery is.  The attraction of large new investments from Microsoft, from AWS, from Pfizer, Cisco and all the rest of it.  And everything that goes with that in terms of the U.S.-Greece trade and investment relationship.

Jose gave us a long list of homework.  First of all, he made clear that he hopes to come to Greece in the months ahead.  He also expressed strong support for the idea of a future 3+1 meeting here in Athens that would bring together all of these different strands of economic, trade, investment, technology cooperation which is a natural area of synergy for us.

He also tasked me and the embassy team to be in touch with him as we work with Minister Fragogiannis on the Minister’s future plans for travel to the United States and specifically to Silicon Valley.  And then the work that the State Department can do to help get the word out about Greece.  I think one of the points that Under Secretary Fernandez made is that for much of the business world, Greece is, people think Greece and they still hear the old story, they don’t hear the Greece of today and the fantastic success of the tourism economy.

And I should add, I flew back on Saturday.  My American Airlines flight, every single seat was filled.  It was all tourists.  We got on the plane in a sort of gloomy fall afternoon in New York City and we landed on Saturday morning and it looked like this.  And I really enjoyed hearing all these American tourists walking down the jetway and as soon as they came out of the jetway and you see, there’s that glass corridor there, and they were all look at the sky.  I love Greece already.  This is fantastic.  And it’s a reminder of what we all take for granted here and how marketable [interruption].  So there’s a lot that we’re going to do in this area and as I said, Under Secretary Fernandez made clear that he wants to remain engaged and will be supportive of this, including support to encourage the continued growth and expansion of U.S. investment and trade relations in Greece.

China.  China obviously was part of the conversations throughout.  It is a major factor in the Washington strategic conversation these days, and the whole dialogue, Thursday the entire day which began at 8:30 in the morning and ran until 5:30.  So that’s nine hours, a solid nine hours of discussion.  Much of it was at the global strategic level, and you can’t talk global strategy in Washington without a lot of talk about China.

There were no surprises to any of you who follow the issues in terms of what U.S. views are, but there also were no great surprises in terms of the positions that the Greek government representatives enunciated, including on key issues of concern to the United States and Europe like 5G, investment in strategic infrastructure, how we can work together to encourage China to respect the rules-based international order that we’ve all helped to build since 1945.

So that was a good discussion.  It was particularly useful in my view that National Security Advisor Dokos was able to spend some time with Laura Rosenberger.  Laura, as I said, comes out of the think tank community in Washington, DC.  She is the person in the U.S. government shaping the Biden administration’s China strategy.  So that was a very detailed and very frank conversation about our respective perspectives.  We don’t agree on everything, but we agree on much more than we disagree about, and the Dialogue was one which was welcoming where the United States is keen to continue it.

Finally you asked about Alexandroupoli.  Separate from the Strategic Dialogue I will just flag a couple of things.  One is that our defense and security relationship there continues to expand.  Of course we added one of the camps around Alexandroupoli as part of the expansion of the MDCA signed last week.  We also continue to build on the investment that EUCOM and Army Europe have made, starting with the removal of the sunken dredger Olga.  You have seen that we continue to raise the bar in terms of the size and complexity of operations there.  So it wasn’t that long ago that we had the first troop rotation that involved the use of the rail line onto the pier in Alexandroupoli which was literally the very first time that capacity had ever been exercised.

Earlier this summer we had the first occasion when we had two large carrier ships in Alexandroupolis port at the same time.  You all remember the photographs of the piers covered with armored vehicles including Abrams tanks.  The first time that we ever used one of the on-ship cranes to lift an Abrams tank which is about 70 tons, if I’m remembering correctly.  And in a couple of weeks we will have the largest ever rotation of aircraft through Alexandroupoli.  So the largest number of aircraft that we’ve ever moved through that facility as part of the next cycle of Defender Europe.

So we’ve got a lot going on in Alexandroupoli.  The privatization process is moving ahead.  We still have two American companies pursuing that privatization.  In fact, I met with one of the American groups today which their principals are heading up to Kavala and Alexandroupoli later this week.  So this is very much part of the strategic conversation.

There was also a good deal of discussion in the context of the Strategic Dialogue again on Alexandroupoli about the Alexandroupoli energy complex — the FSRU, the IGB, the new combined cycle gas power plant which is being constructed in Alexandroupoli, fueled from the FSRU, playing a critical role in Greece’s own strategy for lignite phaseout but also contributing to our climate agenda in the Western Balkans because North Macedonia is a co-investor in that power plant, and will be using its share of the power output also to replace dirty coal.

So there’s a lot going on in Alexandroupoli which crosses several different pillars of the strategic agenda including defense and security, trade and investment, energy and climate.  So indeed there was quite a bit of Alexandroupoli discussion around the various dialogues.

Question:  Mr. Ambassador thank you so much.  I was wondering whether Afghanistan was mentioned?  The new political reality in Afghanistan or any worries about any migrant crisis coming?

Ambassador Pyatt:  First of all, the first message from the American side was appreciation for the generosity that Greece has shown through the shelter it’s providing to these vulnerable Afghan women.  The judges, lawyers, members of the Afghan parliament including the group that the Prime Minister met with I think on Friday.  Everybody in the United States was quite impressed and reassured by Greece’s actions in that regard.  That was the first message.

There was a good conversation about some of the issues around refugees and migration, but nobody is making any broad predictions about what’s going to happen in Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead because we simply don’t know.  There was also, if you look at Secretary Blinken’s remarks with Foreign Minister Dendias, he also mentioned Afghanistan there.

Afghanistan was one of the issues but it was not by any means an overwhelming focus.  The focus, again, was our strategic cooperation, the United States’ enduring commitment to our alliance relationships, our relationships in Europe and the importance of those European alliance relationships and the shared values that undergird them to our mutual objectives on the global stage.

Question:  In this framework, did both sides discuss the Greek-French defense deal?

Ambassador Pyatt:  There was certainly discussion of both the security agreement and the frigate’s decision.  Everything that the American side had to say was consistent with what we’ve said publicly, which is we appreciate the investments that Greece continues to make in NATO capabilities, and we look forward ourselves, to continuing to grow and deepen our defense and security ties.  It’s very much reflected also in the letter to Prime Minister Mitsotakis which talks about all we are already doing in terms of security assistance, in terms of technology transfer, and working to build capacity and interoperability between our forces.

Question:  Mr. Ambassador, I want to know why Skyros is not part of the new MDCA.  And the second question, before we had harassment of a Turkish warship 8 miles east of the Crete area.  I want to know, is that a violation of Greek sovereign rights as described in the letter of Secretary Blinken?

Ambassador Pyatt:  On the Nautical Geo, we made a public statement at the time, I’m not going to add or detract from that.  Our position remains the same.  You will note that the letter is also very explicit.  If you look at the last paragraph of Secretary Blinken’s letter, it emphasizes the Biden administration’s commitment to ensuring stability and prosperity throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.  As I said, I’m not going to parse or amend the wording of the letter which was carefully drafted.

On the question of Skyros, again, your neighbor Vassili there did a very good job in his interview with Foreign Minister Dendias who was very clear in indicating that was a negotiation of these things.  The United States made some proposals, Greece made some proposals, and where we came out is a very strong amendment to the MDCA and an expansion of the MDCA which both sides are comfortable with and strongly support.

Question:  You mentioned the 3+1.  What are the next steps?  And is Secretary Blinken coming to Athens?

Ambassador Pyatt:  We just got through this visit.  Even I wasn’t so bold as to say to Secretary Blinken, hey boss, thanks for doing this but when are you going to come to Athens?  Plus these guys would kill me.  Everybody has to catch their breath.  This was a lot of work.  I have no doubt that Secretary Blinken is going to remain engaged on U.S.-Greece relations.  He made that very clear in his meeting with Foreign Minister Dendias, and I’m sure you’ll get to talk to the Foreign Minister about that before too long.

On the 3+1 process, the way this process has worked from the beginning, we are the plus-one, so we have to wait and hear what Greece comes up with along with its partners, Israel and Cyprus.  But we have made clear our strong interest in seeing the process move ahead.

Things slowed down a little bit because of elections in Israel.  Now you have an Israeli government and your Foreign Minister had the opportunity to meet the Israeli Foreign Minister and the UAE Foreign Minister while he was in Washington, DC, following up the Abraham Accord anniversary and the three meetings that Secretary Blinken participated in.  So Secretary Blinken, we had a three-way meeting – UAE, Israel, United States.  And then the Secretary of State had follow-on bilaterals with both Foreign Ministers.

It was actually Secretary Blinken, at one point he called it the variable geometry of Greek foreign policy.  We are strong supporters of that variable geometry and we look forward to being part of it as we move ahead.

I think the question of what comes next rests for now with the three, instead of with me and the plus-one, with one asterisk which is the point I made to Angelos about Under Secretary Fernandez and his strong interest in seeing that we put together a 3+1 senior level conversation focused on the wider economic, trade, investment, technology relationship.

Question: Mr. Ambassador, I would like to ask about the MDCA. It was renewed for five years instead of one and that was interpreted by many analysts that it gives space to the United States to invest in those three facilities.  Are you in line with this interpretation, are we going to see more investments and what kind?  And I would like to ask, I see that you mention the increase in bilateral exercises and training activities for Greece.  If you could elaborate a bit on that.  Are the Dodecanese for example included?

Ambassador Pyatt:  First of all in terms of activities and exercises, we on my watch we’ve had regular ship visits to Rhodes, for instance.  So that’s already happening.  In terms of our defense relations, those of you who cover the defense beat I think will validate my assertion, we have never been as busy as we are right now.  I don’t think there’s a week that goes by when you don’t have some kind of exercise going on between – right now we have our air forces flying together in Larissa.  In a couple of weeks our special forces will be exercising together.  In a couple of weeks after that we’ll have the rotation through Alexandroupoli.  We have the Hellenic Tank Challenge coming up in Petrochori.

There is an incredibly robust agenda of exercises that are happening, and importantly, we now see Greece, and this was a very welcome message from the Greek side during the Strategic Dialogue, Greece expanding beyond strictly bilateral to more complex multilateral exercises like what we see at INIOCHOS, like what our special forces have done with Greek special forces in North Macedonian special forces.  These are particularly valuable because they reinforce  the interoperability among multiple stakeholders.  That is the greatest strength of our NATO alliance.  So that’s all going to continue.

On the basis of the 2019 amendment, we have already been making investments at the facilities that we added in 2019.  So additional ramp space in Larissa, additional life support in Volos.  And now we’ll be able to do more of that including in these additional facilities where we have written in assured access.

Question:  Could you elaborate how with MDCA it will further advance the security in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Ambassador Pyatt:  Again, I cannot do any better than the statement that Secretary Blinken made.  There was a written statement that we issued in conjunction with the signing of the protocol of amendment, and the actual remarks which you all saw the Secretary of State deliver in the Ben Franklin room.  Then on top of that we have the letter from Secretary Blinken to Prime Minister Mitsotakis.

You combine those different things and you’ve got a very clear picture in terms of how we believe this MDCA advances our alliance and U.S. interests.  It’s to the Greek state, the Greek government to explain the Greek interests, but again, Foreign Minister Dendias has been quite robust in terms of the explanations that he’s made.  I was also glad to see the statement from Defense Minister Panagiotopoulos on Thursday evening.  I think that’s really important because he also played a really central role in getting us to where we are today.

Question:  Was there any discussion about the possible participation of Greece in the F-35 program?

Ambassador Pyatt:  Yes.  And the United States welcomes Greece’s interest in participating in the F-35 program.  When that happens is going to be a decision for the Greek state, for the Hellenic Air Force first and foremost, for the Ministry of Defense.  But it’s obviously going to happen and we’ve made clear that we welcome that.

Question:  Is it too early to ask about your personal plans?  We’ve been reading a lot of stories about your successor.

Ambassador Pyatt:  You’re welcome to ask.  The bottom line is I have no departure plans at this point.  I have a successor who has been nominated.  I look forward to doing everything that I can to support a good transition once he’s confirmed, but when that confirmation happens is going to be some time off, and in the meantime I’m going to keep working as hard as I can.

A lot of you know I’m a cyclist, and if you look at professional cycling – if you’ve ever watched a professional bike race part of the art form of professional cycling is these guys in the Tour de France, they’ll do a stage where they ride 200 kilometers and then after 200 kilometers they’re still sprinting in the last 400 meters to see who wins, and that’s very much going to be my approach to this job.  I plan to sprint until the very end, and I don’t even know where that end is yet.

Question:  Have you counted the kilometers you’ve cycled in Greece?

Ambassador Pyatt:  I could figure it out.  I haven’t counted it.  I know what my longest ride in Greece is, because I’ve done it twice now and I feel it in every bone of my body, it was Spartakiada which is just a little bit over 250 kilometers.

I’ve actually got a new video that I haven’t put up yet, I have to give it to Torrey, a three minute video of the Spartakiada.  I’ll show it to you when we’re done here.

Question:  Libya.  It is important for Greece also what is happening in Libya.  What is your stance on that and what are you planning to do about the election?  Is there any information?

Ambassador Pyatt:  Thank you very much for raising that.  And first, I should say there was a really excellent Libya conversation, especially because Derek Chollet is the most senior American official to travel to Libya since, as far as I can remember, Secretary of State Clinton right after the fall of Gaddafi.  Derek was in Libya about two weeks ago.  And of course Foreign Minister Fragogiannis was also just in Libya.  So they had a really rich conversation.  It was a real eye-opener for Counselor Chollet to hear and to realize that not only has your Deputy Foreign Minister and your Foreign Minister traveled to Libya, but you have a consulate in Benghazi, so Greece has a real footprint.

Our outlook on Libya is almost identical.  Both of us want to see a successful election.  We want to see Libya move towards becoming a more normal, stable state.  And we agree emphatically that all foreign forces need to leave in order to —

Question:  All foreign forces?

Ambassador Pyatt:  All foreign forces need to leave.  All foreign forces need to leave Libya.  Torrey can give you our statements on that which have been very clear.

There was a very strong meeting of the minds, and again, as I said, for me one of the great values of the Strategic Dialogue is the opportunity it provided for a senior Greek delegation to update Washington on this new geometry and the greater ambition of Greek foreign policy and the constructive Greek role in Libya.  And Minister Fragogiannis also talked about what Mytilineos is doing, what you’re doing in the economic area, what you’re doing with vaccines and vaccine contributions to Libya.  These are all welcome developments from an American standpoint.  So it was a very good story that Greece was able to tell.

Question:  But there is some kind of confusion in terms of the Greek foreign policy and your foreign policy in Libya.  [Inaudible]

Ambassador Pyatt:  I think you’re asking a question to the Greek government.  What I will tell you is there was a very clear Greek message in Washington on Libya.  There was a very high degree of convergence with American objectives and American analysis.  And in particular from a Washington standpoint welcoming of the constructive contributions that Greece is making in areas like economic stabilization and recovery.  Foreign Minister Dendias talked about his support to the Libyan Foreign Minister as represented, for instance, in the meeting that he hosted here in Athens for the Minister to meet with counterparts from the European Union.  All of that is for the good as far as the United States is concerned.  But from now through December, our collective focus is on ensuring an effective election and ensuring that the outcome of that election is respected.

Question:  Can you comment on the relations between the U.S. and Turkey right now?

Ambassador Pyatt:  Fortunately, I’m the U.S. Ambassador to Greece.  I did have the opportunity to brief Senator Flake who is the nominee to be our Ambassador in Turkey.  We had a very good conversation about the importance of the partnership between our two embassies.  But beyond that, I leave questions of Turkey policy to my colleagues in Ankara.

Question:  Is there some view you could share with us about the Greek-French defense agreement?

Ambassador Pyatt:  Again, we have issued a statement on that.  Torrey can get you what Washington said, and that is a reflection not just of what we think here at the embassy but of Washington’s considered views on this.  But I think I already spoke broadly to this.

Thank you all.  Just to circle back to where I Started out, last week was a really good week for U.S.-Greece relations and as I said, we’re not just sitting on our laurels and patting ourselves on the back for what we’ve accomplished, but we’re very optimistic about what the future holds as well.  Thank you.