On an official visit to Athens over the weekend during which he signed an extended defense agreement with Greece, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backed Greece’s position opposite Turkey’s continuing provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean, describing the country’s illegal drilling for hydocarbons in the region as “unacceptable.”
“We have told the Turks that illegal drilling is unacceptable and we’ll continue to take diplomatic actions to make sure that we do, as we do always, ensure that lawful activity takes place,” Pompeo said during a joint press conference with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.
“We want to make sure that rules govern international exploration in the Mediterranean Sea’s energy resources and that no country can hold Europe hostage,” he added.
Earlier on Saturday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had also asked Pompeo for support in dealing with Turkey, noting that its recent moves in the region were “a flagrant violation of Cyprus’s sovereign rights.”
Dendias and Pompeo signed a protocol of amendment to the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) between the two countries which relates to the use of Souda Base and the air bases of Stefanovikeio and Larissa in central Greece and the port of Alexandroupoli. Both officials emphasized the importance of the deal in promoting stability in the broader region while Pompeo indicated that it was not related to Turkey’s activities.
Dendias, who also condemned Turkey’s activities in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, declared that Greek-US relations are at a “historic high point.”
“The strategic upgrading of our cooperation with the USA is a guarantee of security and a source of stability, growth and prosperity,” he said, heralding the launch of a “new era” in relations.
In a speech later on Saturday at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC), Pompeo said Greek democracy has proved to be “extremely resilient” and expressed hopes that the country’s economy would bounce back.
While praising the country for cutting red tape to help foreign businesses invest, Pompeo also raised concerns about Chinese investments in Greece, saying he had confidence in the Greek government to know when and if to accept Chinese investments.
After his speech at the SNFCC, Pompeo also defended the Trump administration’s approach to Ukraine that is at the center of an impeachment inquiry. Questioned about the inquiry, Pompeo referred to the probe as a “silly gotcha game” that is “not helpful.”
A rally in central Athens by the Communist Party-backed labor union PAME opposing the use of bases in Greece by US troops was marred by isolated violence with demonstrators burning an American flag and throwing paint over the statue of the late President Harry S. Truman near the city center.