Blinken’s Athens visit limited to bilateral format

Blinken’s Athens visit limited to bilateral format

The visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Athens on February 21 will take place in a strictly bilateral framework, despite initial suggestions from Athens for a resumption at a ministerial level of the 3+1 format (Greece, Cyprus, Israel plus the US).

According to reports, the United States prefers to limit the agenda to the Strategic Dialogue (fourth round) and the linked discussion on the updating of the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA).

Although the 3+1 format exists, it has been limited for some time to a technocratic level. The most recent meeting was on cybersecurity issues. 

It is politically clear that Washington’s priority at this time is to maintain excellent relations with Athens at a high level, while also remaining focused on Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is attempting to exploit the widespread anti-Americanism that is thriving among the electorate of Greece’s neighbor across the Aegean.

Given that Blinken will be visiting both Athens and Ankara, and at a time when Erdogan and his government officials are accusing Washington of “violating” Greece-Turkey neutrality, it was thought vital to maintain, as much as possible, an equal distance between the two countries.

With three weeks remaining until the visit, the Turkish F-16 case is not progressing with very positive omens for Ankara, and the diplomatic game between the administration of US President Joe Biden and Erdogan still has many rounds to go, which de facto include Greece.

Meanwhile, Ankara is already accusing Greece of “blocking” the sale of F-16s to Turkey through Senator Bob Menendez, despite the fact that State Department and Pentagon officials have appealed to Ankara to take into account the role Congress plays in the American system. Instead, Ankara, through the Turkish president’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, has gone so far as to link the sale of F-16s to Turkey with the release of F-35s to Greece.

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