NEWS

Athens eyeing closer ties with US

TOM ELLIS

TAGS: Diplomacy, Defense, Politics

Athens is trying to build a closer relationship with the new US administration mainly by promulgating the comparative advantages that Greece has to offer in a volatile region during this difficult period, Kathimerini understands.

Despite the ideological divide between the two governments, President Donald Trump’s absence of a clear strategy and tactical roadmap as regards geopolitical affairs is being seen in Athens as an opportunity to style the country as a facilitator of Washington’s foreign policy in the wider neighborhood.

This became evident during Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias’s and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos’s recent contacts with senior US officials, when they avoided pursuing American support on issues of narrow Greek interest such as Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus problem or the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Kotzias held talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and several members of Congress.

Meanwhile, Kammenos met with US Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who is of Greek descent. Analysts say Greece could facilitate US-led operations against ISIS militants and play a role in developments in fragmented Libya. Mattis recently said that Greece plays a key role in addressing terrorist threats on NATO’s southern flank.

One comparative advantage is trilateral partnerships with Cyprus, Israel and Egypt. Another is the Souda naval base, in western Crete. US use of Souda has increased in recent years, prompting the Americans to broach a renewal of the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) with Athens.

The prospect of closer bilateral ties comes as NATO member Turkey’s increasingly unpredictable leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently threatened to shut down the Incirlik air base used by US forces in the war against ISIS.

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