Greece and the United States should expect some “turbulence” over the next few months as Turkey gears up for the next presidential election in 2019, US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt told Vice Greece in an on-camera interview published on Friday.
Asked about the rising tension between the two countries Pyatt attributed it partly to the election period in Turkey but said he had confidence in the way the government is handling the issue.
“We have a high degree of confidence in the Greek leaders who have been working on these issues. I think we both – Greece and the US – are going to have to get through some turbulence over the next couple of months as President Erdogan gets himself reelected. I think that's where it's so importance to have confidence in the US-Greek relations,” he said.
“A lot of it I think its politics but I don't want to dismiss it,” he added.
He also rejected Greek media reports stoking fears over a possible repeat of the 1996 incident at the islets of Imia in the Aegean, which brought the two countries close to war.
“I have a lot of people who have expressed to me this anxiety of some kind of an incident. There's been some crazy stuff in the press. This stuff in [newspaper] 'Parapolitika' that was running about Imia 2 and the Americans planning…That's completely manufactured, it's not true,” he said.
Commenting about the two Greek soldiers who have been detained in Turkey after straying into its territory earlier this month, he reaffirmed his country's commitment in bringing them back.
“What I can tell you is the United States are going to remain engaged and we believe these two soldiers need to come back to their families. We also believe it is in Turkey's interest as it is in Greece's interest is to see a stable, cooperative, normal relationship between the two countries,” he said.
Pyatt also expressed hope Greece and FYROM will reach a solution on the long-running name dispute, saying it would be a breakthrough, if achieved.
“We've had some senior US visitors who have been here recently and have heard a very clear message from the government in terms of how the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister [Nikos] Kotzias and his team are working on this. Ultimately any durable solution is the one that is going to be agreed between the two prime ministers. There's not a lot of external influence that is going to change that, one way of another,” he said.
“What's very clear to me is that if you can get this breakthrough, and it would be a real breakthrough, it would be very good for Greece. Just as it would be very good for Skopje. So we are going to continue to be friends of the process we're supporting Matthew Nimetz. I think we're going to continue to follow it very closely […] with a real sense that the two sides have come further over the past few months than they have even come before.”