US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to visit Athens, the northern port city of Thessaloniki and the island of Crete next week in the context of a trip starting on Sunday that will also include stops in Italy and Croatia.
“In Greece, Secretary Pompeo will meet with Prime Minister Mitsotakis and Foreign Minister Dendias to renew our shared commitment to advance security, peace, and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean and celebrate the strongest U.S.-Greek relationship in decades.,” the US State Department said, announcing the visit on Thursday.
Pompeo will “renew our shared commitment to advance security, peace, and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean and celebrate the strongest US-Greek relationship in decades,” the State Department said.
Pompeo will also be traveling to the northern port city of Thessaloniki, to “sign a bilateral science and technology agreement, as well as host energy sector business leaders for a discussion to highlight energy diversification and infrastructure projects in Greece..”
The Secretary will then head to Crete, where he will visit the Souda Bay naval base, “to underscore the strong U.S. security partnership with NATO Ally Greece,” the announcement added.
In a post on Twitter, Pompeo said he was “Looking forward to discussing important trade, security, and religious freedom issues with my counterparts in Greece, Italy, the Holy See, and Croatia next week.”
Looking forward to discussing important trade, security, and religious freedom issues with my counterparts in Greece, Italy, the Holy See, and Croatia next week.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 24, 2020
Pompeo’s visit to Athens, Thessaloniki and Crete comes amid efforts to de-escalate tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey over maritime boundaries and energy exploration rights.
His visit to Greece also comes off the back of a visit to Cyprus earlier this month, as previously reported by Greek City Times.
“Countries in the region need to resolve disagreements including on security and energy resource and maritime issues diplomatically and peacefully,” Pompeo said in his meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades earlier this month.
“Increased military tensions help no one but adversaries who would like to see division in transatlantic unity,” he said.
Turkish social media users have highlighted that Pompeo’s trips to Greece and Cyprus are completely unprecedented as they have not included trips to Turkey as is usually the case for top American administrators visiting the region.
Pompeo’s trip will also includes a visit to Rome, the Vatican and Croatia.
“In Rome, the Secretary will meet with Prime Minister Conte and Foreign Minister Di Maio to discuss the U.S.-Italy bilateral relationship, COVID-19 responses, and our efforts to confront shared security threats and promote regional stability,” the statement said, adding that “the Secretary will also deliver remarks at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See Symposium on Advancing and Defending Religious Freedom through Diplomacy on September 30.”
“In Vatican City, Secretary Pompeo will meet with Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Gallagher,” the statement continued, before highlighting that Pompeo will also visit Croatia on October 2 “to meet with Prime Minister Plenković, Foreign Minister Grlić Radman, and Defense Minister Banožić.”
“The leaders will discuss opportunities for closer cooperation between the United States and Croatia in key areas of mutual concern, including defense cooperation, the growing U.S.-Croatia investment relationship, and Croatia’s strong efforts to advance Western Balkan integration,” the statement concluded.