On the first day of a two-day visit to Greece on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo essentially supported Greece’s stance on the delineation of maritime zones, indicating in a joint statement following talks with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Thessaloniki that any solution to a dispute with Turkey in the region should be resolved peacefully and on the basis of international law.
“The United States and Greece shared views on the Eastern Mediterranean and reaffirmed their belief that maritime delimitation issues should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law,” the statement said.
On Tuesday, Pompeo is to visit the US naval base at Souda Bay on Crete with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis where talks are to focus on bilateral cooperation in defense and security.
Pompeo’s visit to Crete comes as the US has made clear its intention to boost its military presence on all the bases included in the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement signed by Greece and the US last year.
There is strong US interest in investing in defense infrastructure, with upgrades of Greek F-16s already in the works and plans for the construction of four new frigates as well as the upgrade of four existing ones.
Commenting on the planned resumption of exploratory talks between Greek and Turkish officials later this week, Pompeo expressed hope that they would be successful. “The way conflict is resolved is not through show of force or through demonstration of power; it’s through dialogue, international systems, agreement,” he told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency. “We’ve watched Greeks move in that direction trying to achieve that; we hope Turkey will see it the same way,” he said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his part, used more aggressive rhetoric ahead of a European Union leaders’ summit which is expected to focus on Turkey’s transgressions in the East Med. “We’re not guests but owners,” he said, referring to the East Med. Erdogan’s adviser Ibrahim Kalin was more measured, saying the summit could be an opportunity to reset relations between Turkey and the EU.
European Council President Charles Michel referred to “tensions and unpredictable developments” in the East Med, adding that pressure is being exerted on the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus.