COMMENT

What the US ambassador actually said about East Med drilling

TAGS: Letter to the editor

Dear Editor,

We read the editorial published in Kathimerini’s Sunday edition on June 9, 2019 by Costas Simitis, titled “The Coastal Zone – EEZ – Continental Shelf – Take Caution Now,” with special respect and consideration given the former prime minister’s deep knowledge of the topic and the recent, strong US government policy statements on these issues.

As part of the evidence he cites to support his position that Greece’s allies are taking a cautious approach to Turkey, Prime Minister Simitis states, “It is indicative of this position that the US ambassador to Greece, in response to questions about ‘Turkey’s provocations’ in the Cypriot [exclusive economic zone], emphasized the need for stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and spoke of agreements equally beneficial to the parties involved – an answer that suggests initiatives that perhaps will not be in the interests of our country.”

I note here that this does not accurately describe Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt’s response to the question at the May 15 Air Power Conference at the Hellenic Air Force Academy, which is the event where certain media misinterpreted his remarks.

He never spoke about agreements being equally beneficial. Instead, he said: “On the question specifically of the Cypriot EEZ and Turkish drilling activities, you saw the very quick and clear reaction of my government through our spokesperson in Washington, DC, and in particular our emphasis on avoiding provocative and escalatory actions. From that perspective, I would note also that our long-term hope – and this is again embodied in our support for the Greece-Israel-Cyprus trilateral – our long-term hope is that energy issues in the Eastern Mediterranean should become a driver of cooperation, a win-win, as opposed to a driver of conflict. It’s very important in that regard that [Cyprus] President [Nicos] Anastasiades has explicitly proposed the creation of an escrow account so that any resources from Cypriot drilling activities would be shared equally among the communities.”

You can find a transcript of his answer on the US Embassy website, as well as his response to reporters at the conference on the same topic.

In fact, the first outlets which misinterpreted the ambassador’s remarks were Pronews.gr and Pentapostagma.gr and, we would argue, they did so intentionally given their well-known slant toward Russian positions.

Unfortunately, the narrative spread, despite other factual coverage, including on Defense-Point.gr and HellasJournal.com.

I am writing to correct the record so that your readers have the text of what the ambassador said on this topic.

Sincerely,

Bill Murad
Press Attache, US Embassy, Athens

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