Senior Greek and American officials have been engaged in a flurry of multifaceted talks in recent days ahead of Thursday’s Strategic Dialogue between the two countries in Washington, focusing on regional defense, security and energy.
According to reliable sources, the officials are laying the groundwork to ensure that Thursday’s talks will lead to the immediate implementation of measures agreed by the two sides.
The main priority for the Greek government will be to secure strategic gains given that Washington views Athens as an increasingly important strategic partner in the region in terms of defense and security.
A case in point is the ongoing anti-terror exercise on the island of Crete – considered one of the largest ever held on European soil.
The exercise also coincided with the visit yesterday by Rear Admiral Timothy Szymanski, deputy commander of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and Major General Kirk Smith, commander of Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR), to Defense Minister Panos Kammenos and the chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA), Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis.
American interest in expanding military cooperation in Greece was highlighted by the visit by General Tod D. Wolters, head of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, to Christos Christodoulou, head of the Hellenic Air Force General Staff (GEA), at the Air Force Tactical Command based at Larissa Air Base.
With naval cooperation featuring prominently and given the US’s focus on the base at Souda Bay on Crete, senior military sources have said that Athens and Washington are also discussing the possibility of creating a shipbuilding research center in Greece for the purpose of developing a warship.
In addition, the Hellenic Navy has increased its participation in training exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean basin.
The Greek delegation to Washington, headed by Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos, is also expected to discuss the Cyprus issue.
On Wednesday, Katrougalos will hold talks in New York with Jane Holl Lute, the UN special envoy on the Cyprus dispute, ahead of her visit to Cyprus at the weekend for a fresh round of talks in the bid to resume negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.