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Big plans for Alexandroupoli

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TAGS: Privatizations, Defense, Diplomacy, US

Speaking at the 7th annual Exposec-Defenseworld Conference in Athens, US Ambassador to Athens Geoffrey Pyatt stressed that Greece’s geostrategic location is key to security and stability in the Southeast Mediterranean. Meanwhile, referring to Greek Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis’ visit to Washington next month, he underscored American interest in the northern ports of Thessaloniki and Alexandroupoli.

The American envoy has repeatedly complained because the privatization of Thessaloniki’s port – which has in the past been used for the transfer of western troops and supplies, including in World War I and during the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s – has given Russian capital a foothold in the port. Now the Americans have set their sights on the port of Alexandroupoli, which was used only by fishing boats until a few years ago. However, recent geopolitical shifts and volatility in the wider region have elevated the port’s status of the port, attracting interest from Russia and China as well.

Pyatt was clear during his speech: Alexandroupoli port has tremendous potential and capacity, while also having rail and road networks feeding into Eastern Europe.

“From a security and economic standpoint, it makes sense to further develop the port to benefit both our strategic relationship and the Greek economy,” Pyatt said. “And in this regard, I remain very focused on finding an American investor, as that port’s privatization moves forward.”

It is not just American liquefied natural gas (LNG) that will be able to reach Alexandroupoli by sea. The US sees Alexandroupoli as an alternative to the Bosporus Straits that connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. The harbor can be expanded and modernized, it is located at rather short distance from the shores of the Black Sea and there are already plans for rail and road links with the ports of Varna and Burgas in Bulgaria, which is the most pro-US country in Southeast Europe.

In case of a Black Sea crisis, the port could be used as an alternative route for allied troops if Turkey were to shut down the straits, in violation of the Montreux convention and with the tolerance of its Russian allies.

No wonder Pyatt rarely misses an opportunity to talk about Alexandroupoli.

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