US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt: "Souda Bay, the flagship of US-Greece military cooperation"

US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

The Minister of National Defence Nikos Panagiotopoulos and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visited the military base in Souda, Crete on Friday. They were accompanied by Hellenic National Defence General Staff (HNDS) Chief General Constantinos Floros.

They described the military base in Souda as being critically important for peace and stability in the wider region of the Mediterranean and a key pillar of strength for crucial areas facing problems.

After the end of the visit, Panagiotopoulos noted the level of the infrastructure at the facilities was excellent and underlined the very good cooperation between the Greek and US Armed Forces and the deep strategic relationship between the two countries.

"Our visit here today has a strong symbolism because Souda clearly and iconically expresses the strategic relations between Greece and the United States," Panagiotopoulos said.

He also referred to the common Greek and US vision for peace in the region: "Greece and the USA have expressed their concern over the illegal and provocative actions that raise tension in the region and always point out the importance of respect for international law and good neighbourly relations."

The Greek minister said that "we have made absolutely clear that Greece is always ready to defend and safeguard its sovereign rights, which derive from international treaties and international law, and to effectively deter any action against them".

On his part, Pyatt stated what a great honour it was for him to visit Souda Bay with with Minister Panagiotopoulos and the Chief of Hellenic Armed Forces General Floros.

"Souda, for the United States government, plays two critically important roles. First of all, it is our most important platform for the projection of American power into a strategically dynamic Eastern Mediterranean region. From Syria to Libya to the chokepoint of the Black Sea, this is a critically important asset for the United States, as our air force, naval, and other resources are applied to support our Alliance obligations and to help bring peace and stability," Pyatt added.

He continued: "But the other aspect of Souda Bay, which is less well known, is that this is the most important venue for day-to-day cooperation between Greek and American forces. I’m extremely proud of the partnership that we have here, and the way in which all of our services with the Hellenic Navy at the Souda Bay pier, with the Hellenic Air Force at the topside base, and the Hellenic Army at NAMFI, work every single day with our Greek counterparts to build the kind of habits of cooperation that are the essence of our alliance.

Pyatt also stated that is was "very proud to be part of the deepening of our partnership with the Hellenic Special Forces community."

"The United States supports Operation Irini and shares with our Greek Allies the conviction that the solution to the war in Libya is for the cessation of external powers, all of them, that have been pumping in weapons and forces to deepen the violence to the south of Crete," he continued.

In his final remarks, he referred to Panagiotopoulos' imminent visit to Washington and his meeting with his US counterpart Mark Esper.

"Finally, I want to note how useful it is that we have the Minister here before he goes to Washington DC for his first official visit with Secretary of Defense Esper. The U.S.-Greece relationship today is stronger than it has ever been. That was made clear when Prime Minister Mitsotakis was at the White House in January. But one of the strongest pillars of our multifaceted relationship is our defense cooperation, and Souda Bay illustrates why that is of such value to the United States, and why we are committed to continuing to invest in that partnership and to build the strongest possible alliance between our two democracies to bring peace and stability to this complicated and oftentimes difficult region. Ευχαριστώπολύ," he concluded.