US MILITARY IN GREECE

Greece’s parliament has ratified an agreement with the United States for a major expansion of military cooperation as tension with Turkey escalates.

Members of parliament voted 175-33 to ratify the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in October by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit to Athens.

The deal provides for increased joint U.S.-Greece and NATO activities at Greek military bases and facilities in Larissa, Stefanovikio, and Alexandroupolis, in central and northern Greece, as well as infrastructure and other improvements at the Souda Bay U.S. naval base on the island of Crete.

The U.S. Air Force is already operating MQ-9 Reaper drones out of Larissa airbase.

“This is for the mutual benefit of our defense and our economies,” conservative lawmaker Ioannis Lambropoulos said in parliament ahead of the vote. “At a time when we are receiving threats to our sovereignty, we are seeking the support of our allies.”

Pompeo welcomed the ratification by Greek Parliament and in a tweet, he said the updated Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement is “a strategic touchstone in our defense relationship.”