US Defense Secretary James Mattis stressed the importance of the Prespa Agreement signed between Athens and Skopje to resolve the 27-year-old name dispute and praised Greece's efforts to stop Russian interference in the process during a meeting with Greek counterpart Panos Kammenos at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
Mattis noted Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' support for FYROM's path towards NATO membership through the name deal.
“Solving this protracted dispute took political courage and compromise by all. This step forward strengthens Balkan security and our NATO alliance,” he told in comments before the cameras.
“We applaud Greece's stalwart commitment to protecting democratic values by expelling Russian diplomats, who sought to disrupt the sovereign processes surrounding the naming agreement. In doing so, Greece made clear that the birthplace of democracy would not tolerate reckless violation and disrespect for international norms and your sovereignty,” he added.
Mattis said the US recognizes the country's vital role in maintaining regional security in a difficult neighborhood.
“We appreciate your perspective on challenges facing NATO's southern flank and on your leadership in promoting Balkan stability,” he told Kammenos and commended Greece's strong investments in defense capability by exceeding NATO's pledge of 2 pct of defense spending.