REMARKS TO THE PRESS
PRIME MINISTER MITSOTAKIS: (Via translator) Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, it is with great pleasure that we’re welcoming here in Crete the Secretary of State of the U.S. Mike Pompeo. It is his second visit to Greece in the past months, and following my trip to the U.S. in last January and my meeting there with President Trump. So I fully endorse his statement that the relations of our two countries have never been as close and productive as today. There are relations that go across all levels.
I’m also glad that my friend, the Secretary of State, will be hosted here in my home place, Chania, Crete, in Crete – on Crete island, because it is on this island that both Greece’s and – the heart of Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean beat, but also the strong heartbeat of the U.S.-Greek cooperation. It is not by chance that we are delivering these statements from 115 wing of our air force, and earlier we visited the U.S. NSA base and the Greek frigate Salamis and pier K14. Souda is thus most becoming most strategic part of the region where the interests of both our countries converge with those of security and peace. Here on its ground, allied forces and communications are deployed. On its water, joint exercises are taking place. And quite soon, as the Secretary of State will soon tell you, Souda will become the berthing place of USS Hershel Williams, one of the largest ships of the U.S. And on – in Souda and Crete, above them are in the skies both Greek and U.S. aircraft will be flying as guarantors of stability. It is no accident, or it’s not by chance that we have Greek aircraft and U.S. aircraft flying, sharing the same runway.
The upgraded Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement between Greece and the U.S. is expanding its actions and activities to the area of the defense industry, spearheaded by the modernization of F-16 aircraft, as well as joint programs and projects, and U.S. investments in Greek shipyards. It has also expanded in other areas and fields. For instance, the area of the – the gate of Alexandroupoli, which is developing into a U.S. gas transport hub to the continental Eastern and Central Europe, where as you know in Alexandroupolis a floating storage and regasification unit is being constructed. It is a unit where LNG will be regasified at the same time as the port is being privatized, as will the Port of Kavala.
Now, Mr. Pompeo with the ministries of foreign affairs and development discussed about all these issues yesterday in Thessaloniki and signed a very important bilateral agreement – agreement, rather, on bilateral PPPs in the area of innovation. This is yet another proof of the leading role of Greece in Balkans – in Balkans, where Greece is making a dynamic comeback after almost 10 years.
Our peninsula is a geographic area where a lot of U.S. and Greek interests converge. For instance, Thessaloniki has been and will always be a dynamic springboard.
I have a chance to find out about the readiness of a U.S. investments infrastructure, energy, and digital technology myself when I had talks recently with the head of the International Development Finance Corporation, the DFC, that recently paid a visit to Greece and is the state agency for U.S. investments abroad.
Now, we both drew a conclusion that, as our friends and interlocutors say, the sky’s the limit regarding what we can achieve together.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is however clear that in our – our discussions, rather, are – continue to be dominated by security issues in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is a very sensitive area that has been recently tried by Turkey’s aggressiveness with provocative actions outside the realm of international law with unnecessarily extreme rhetoric, which dangerously escalates tensions, as well as manipulative tactics that often fail to corroborate the honesty of its intentions. In other words, actions that are contrary to the values of the Western World and which unfortunately Ankara continues to pursue on the waters of Cyprus, as you yourself, Mr. Secretary, have a chance to realize when you visited Nicosia recently.
I presented – I and my ministers presented the U.S. delegation with the Greek positions which I believe are fully aligned with the latest statements of the State Department. And if I had to sum them up in four words, I would say: No to unilateral actions. The Greek response to all provocations is always the defense of our national rights. It is a response, however, which is always accompanied with good neighborly initiatives, such as the recent agreements signed on maritime zones with Italy and Egypt, as well as the iconic establishment of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum. It is a policy that is in fact welcomed by all our neighbors and allies – Cyprus, France, Israel, Egypt, the European Union, which is going to consider its relations with Ankara in the forthcoming summit council to take place in the next two days, and the Arab world – I would say the entire international community. Because at a time when old enemies are becoming friends, as in the case of Israel with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, there should be no surging waves of threats and rivalry in the Mediterranean. It is, after all, a sea of strategic importance for the U.S. as well, as it clearly set out in the East Med Act. It is also a key area for global stability.
It is with pleasure that I found out that Mr. Pompeo shares our positions. He understands that tensions between two NATO member-states is not to anybody’s interest, and it is faced with an arbitrary action that is torpedoing a priori any dialogue in good faith and that international law should be everybody’s compass. He knows – he’s well aware of our readiness, our readiness for exploratory contacts that we hope that are going to be resumed shortly, as well as the technical process which is underway within NATO.
I am therefore cautiously optimistic that the time of diplomacy has come now. Mr. Secretary of State, dear friend Mike, my visit – your visit here has forged another strong link to the historic ties that bind Greece and the U.S., opening up new prospects for multi-level collaboration between our countries. I am sure – I’m certain – that you personally derive new force from Crete in order to serve the great ideals that made your country great – that is, freedom, equality, and justice.
We will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Greek independence revolution shortly, a revolution that was inspired by the American War of Independence. And I believe that is going a good opportunity to take stock of all the common initiatives that have been achieved or will be achieved or have been launched. I wish you a pleasant stay on our islands, and good and productive – and good, productive talks. Welcome once again.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Thanks for the kind words, and good afternoon to everyone assembled here today. Last night, Prime Minister Mitsotakis so graciously hosted my wife Susan and me in his beautiful family home. It was a wonderful time. I want to thank you and Mareva for being such gracious hosts, and I hope that we can return your kindness one day before too long.
I think it’s very safe to say that the relationship between our two countries is at an all-time high. It’s getting stronger. It’s evident by the conversations I had with the foreign minister yesterday and with the prime minister and his team today. It’s also evident from the historic set of engagements between the Trump administration and the administration of Prime Minister Mitsotakis. This is the first time that the Secretary of State has visited Greece twice, and my team spends an awful lot of time here, too. You talked about Mr. Boehler and the DFC, who came here.
Yesterday I was in Thessaloniki – another first for a Secretary of State – to meet with the foreign minister, Foreign Minister Dendias. I also met with the Greece and North Macedonian energy officials, talked to CEOs about regional integration, talked about opportunities for economic development throughout Greece, and we’ve already seen fantastic work. I know there’s more to follow. We’ve had great American companies like Pfizer and Cisco and Deloitte come to invest here in Greece and create opportunities for their companies as well as for Greek businesses and the people of Greece as well. Their expanding presence is deeply consistent with the prime minister’s welcome embrace of economic reform and openness all across the globe.
I would note, too, that the foreign minister and I also addressed the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, where both sides must stop the violence and work with the Minsk Group co-chairs to return to substantive negotiations as quickly as possible.
It was also very special for me to be able to pay tribute to Thessaloniki’s storied Jewish history and commemorate Yom Kippur during my tour of the Jewish museum there. It was indeed a sobering reminder of the necessary work that we must continue to do to fight anti-Semitism and educate young peoples about the history and the evils of the Holocaust. In that respect, I’m looking forward to seeing Greece preside over the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in the year 2021.
But to the business of today. Today I’m in Crete to showcase one of America’s strongest military relationships throughout all of Europe. We, the Americans, look to Greece as a true pillar for stability and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean, and we are incredibly proud to support its leadership. Our security cooperation has grown tremendously – indeed, by leaps and bounds – we were talking about today with the minister of defense in the (inaudible).
We’re working to advance things that we did about a year ago with the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreements. It’s come to life here in Crete, in Larissa, in Stefanovikeio, in Alexandroupoli. Today I have an announcement that the prime minister foreshadowed, where the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, the U.S. Navy’s newest expeditionary sea base, will call here – will call Souda Bay home. It’s literally the perfect choice in light of the facility’s strategic location and it’s symbolic of a defense partnership that will continue to expand and to grow.
Our security cooperation today is especially important as Russia continues to destabilize the region, especially in Libya, where the U.S. calls for the withdrawal of all foreign military forces and support for military de-escalation and for Libyan reconciliation.
The prime minister and I also agreed to explore closer cooperation to overcome challenges that Russia poses through malign influence activities such as the spread of disinformation on the pandemic and trying to co-opt the Orthodox Church.
On energy, we had a great discussion yesterday. I reiterated the United States support for Greece’s ongoing efforts to diversify energy routes and supplies throughout the region. Free markets should make decision about energy supplies instead of Russia’s Gazprom.
The U.S. also believes deeply that development of the Eastern Mediterranean should promote cooperation and provide a foundation for the durable energy security and economic prosperity of the entire region. We strongly support dialogue between NATO allies Greece and Turkey and encourage them to resume discussion of these issues as soon as possible. I spoke with Secretary-General Stoltenberg just two days ago on the progress being made at NATO, and we hope that these talks can continue in a serious way.
Finally, I raised the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to use economic power here and in the region to gain strategic leverage over European democracies. We are very proud that Prime Minister Mitsotakis and his team are developing and promoting Greece’s digital frontier, including on 5G, and we’re happy that they have joined the Clean Network as well.
Prime Minister Mitsotakis, I can’t say thank you enough. Your team has been most gracious. Thanks for another outstanding visit here to get a chance to be in Greece and be with the Greek people as you celebrate 200 years, a most welcome anniversary for a truly shining light in the region and a great partner and friend of the United States of America. Thank you all very much.