Shortly before the much-anticipated first Strategic Dialogue between Greece and the United States start in Washington on Thursday, a senior official of the US State Department described the discussions as “a really important moment in US-Greek relations,” adding that “we have not seen such an opportunity to upgrade relations in a long time.”
The talks between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos will focus on regional defense, security and energy. The Greek delegation is also expected to discuss the Cyprus issue.
The joint communique that will be issued after the meeting will take stock of the course of the discussions so far, but will also focus on the future and specific actions to further deepen cooperation in six areas: defense and security, law enforcement and counter-terrorism, regional issues (Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean), civil society, trade and investment, and energy.
“If anyone had any doubts about Greece's readiness to return to its rightful role, these were put to rest when the country successfully completed its economic stabilization program,” the State Department official told Greek journalists.
“We expect that Greece will continue to be strengthened economically and we will contribute to this as much as we can,” he added.
The official also noted that investors take their own decisions about where to do business and urged the Greek government to implement the kind of reforms and policies that makes the market attractive to investors.
Asked about the recent Greek unease over references to the teaching of the “Macedonian” language by the Prime Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Zoran Zaev, the US official said he did not want to speculate on what will happen if the deal is not completed, noting it is “key” for the strategic dialog.
He said the American government continues to support the agreement and trusts the leadership of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on the issue. He added Tsipras should be credited with achieving the Prespes accord precisely because it is controversial and resolves some long-standing issues.
The official also stressed that the US supports three important moves by the Greek government which, as he said, “confirm the independence and sovereignty of the Greek nation.”
First, the decision to expel the Russian diplomats accused of espionage; second, Greek efforts to achieve energy diversification; and third, Greece’s cooperation with other countries in the region, including Cyprus and Israel.
Concerning energy, he said: “If Greece makes the right decisions, it can play a key role in ensuring that Europe, NATO allies and the rest of the region will not be hostage to hostile forces.”
Commenting on the strained US relations with Turkey, he said he hoped the deepening of his country’s ties with Greece will not be perceived as a threat by Turkey.
“This is not a zero-sum game. The fact that we strengthen our co-operation with an ally in NATO should never be seen as a departure from our co-operation with another ally.”
Asked whether the strategic dialog initiated with Grece is a Plan B for the US, he rejected the notion, saying his country doesn’t place Greece in a second category. “As far as we are concerned, Greece is plan A.”