Following a visit to the US naval base at Souda Bay on Crete with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday reiterated his opposition to unilateral actions amid disputes between countries and, in an interview with Kathimerini, indicated that the US is prepared to “play any role that’s appropriate and useful and constructive.”
Commenting on a new push to ease tensions between Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, with exploratory talks due to resume this week, Pompeo echoed a previous comment by US President Donald Trump. “There is a window of opportunity here and I think President Trump has said we’ll play any role that’s appropriate and useful and constructive, and I think both parties lean in the right direction,” Pompeo told Kathimerini’s Executive Editor Alexis Papachelas.
Pompeo added that Washington’s commitment to the region remained strong, reiterating that any differences between countries should be resolved on the basis of international law.
“What’s not useful is when countries directly or unilaterally act in a way that causes conflict and creates the risk of escalation,” he said. “We are driving towards the single objective of resolving this in a way that is consistent with international law, diplomatically.”
“A nation ought not take unilateral action to try to gain an advantage,” he said.
Earlier in the day, in joint comments with Mitsotakis following his visit to Souda Bay, Pompeo said the US “strongly” supports dialogue between Greece and Turkey and described the relationship between the US and Greece as “at an all-time high.” “We look to Greece as a true pillar for stability and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean and are incredibly proud to support its leadership,” Pompeo said, adding that “security cooperation is especially important as Russia continues to destabilize the region.”
Mitsotakis criticized Turkey’s provocative activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, adding that “Turkish actions contradict Western values.” Greece is “against unilateral actions,” Mitsotakis said, adding that he was optimistic that “the time for diplomacy has arrived.”
Mitsotakis also announced that Souda Bay would become the permanent home for US expeditionary sea base, the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams. Greek and US fighter jets at Souda Bay are “guarantors of stability,” he said. He also referred to the renewal of the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement signed last year between the two countries, notably the upgrade of 84 F-16 fighter jets.
Pompeo’s visit to Greece, which started in Thessaloniki on Monday and continued in Crete where he was hosted by Mitsotakis, did not go down well in Ankara.
Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkey’s governing AK Party, declared that Washington’s assessment of the East Med crisis has been “one-sided” and has not helped in efforts to relaunch dialogue.
Moscow also reacted to Pompeo’s comments, specifically to his references to Russia destabilizing the region. In a post on Twitter, the Russian Embassy said that “it is not the first time that American officials are trying, with public remarks, to pull the country into the anti-Russian front.” “The anti-Russian hysteria can hardly find a sympathetic ear among the friendly Greek people,” it added.