Today, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made a statement on the occasion of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting the island of Crete in the East Mediterranean.
The full speech:
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
It is with great pleasure that we welcome, here in Crete, the Secretary of State of the United States, Mike Pompeo. This is his second visit to Greece in the last twelve months, and it was preceded by my own trip to the United States, last January, and my meeting with President Trump.
I therefore endorse his statement that the relations between our two countries have never been as close and productive as they are today. They are relationships that extend to all levels.
I am also glad that my friend the minister will be hosted in my place, here, in Chania, in Crete. Because on this island not only the heart of Greece beats, the heart of the Eastern Mediterranean beats as well. However, the strong pulse of the Greek-American cooperation also beats.
It is no coincidence that, now, we are talking about the 115th Combat Wing of our Air Force. Shortly before, we had visited the American base NSA, we had also visited the Greek frigate “Salamis”, at the pier K14. And Souda is thus emerging as the most strategic point of the wider region. Here the interests of our two countries meet together, however, with those of security and peace.
Our allied forces and communications are spreading on its territory. Joint exercises are being held in its waters, and very soon – as the Minister will tell you – here, Souda will become the berth of USS Hershel Williams, one of the largest ships in the United States, while in the skies of Souda and Crete, Greek and American aircraft will always fly, guarantors of stability.
It is no coincidence, moreover, that from here Greek wings operate on one side of the runway, American wings on the other side of the runway, but they share the same runway.
The upgraded Agreement of Mutual Defense Cooperation Greece – America extends its action in the field of our defense industry with the modernization of our 84 F-16s in Viper. But also with joint programs and joint, very important joint investments in Greek shipyards.
It is expanding, however, in other fields and in other areas. As in Alexandroupolis, which is already evolving into a hub for American gas transportation to mainland Europe. Eastern and Central Europe. There, as you know, a floating gas processing unit is being built, to be re-gasified to be more precise, at the same time the privatization of the port is being launched. The port of Kavala will have the same fate.
Mr. Pompeo spoke about all this yesterday, in Thessaloniki, together with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Development. By signing an important, new, bilateral agreement for private-public partnerships in the field of innovation.
This is also a proof of the leading role that Greece plays in the Balkans. In the Balkans, where Greece is returning dynamically after an almost ten-year absence.
Our peninsula is a geographical point that gathers many common interests of Greece and the United States. Thessaloniki is – and always will be – their dynamic base. I had the opportunity to see the readiness for American investments in Infrastructure, Energy, but also Digital Technology, talking, recently, with the head of the International Development Finance Corporation, DFC, who recently visited Greece. It is the state agency for American investment abroad. The common conclusion we came to, as our fellow interlocutors say, is “the sky is the limit”, in what we can do together.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is clear, however, that security issues in the Eastern Mediterranean remain predominant in our discussions.
It is a very sensitive area which has recently been tested by Turkish aggression. By provocative actions outside of International Law. With an unnecessarily extreme rhetoric that often charges the climate. But also with tactics that do not often confirm the sincerity of her intentions. By energies, that is, that are contrary to the values of the western world. Which, unfortunately, Ankara continues in the waters of Cyprus, as you found out, Mr. Minister, when you were in Nicosia a few days ago.
I and the ministers in the American delegation also presented the Greek positions, which I believe are fully in line with the latest statements of the State Department. If I had to summarize them in 4 words I would say: no to unilateral actions. The Greek response to all the challenges is none other than the defense of our national rights.
An answer, however, which is always accompanied by good neighborhood initiatives. Like the recent agreements we signed for our maritime zones with Italy and Egypt. But also the emblematic institution of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum.
This is a policy that is welcomed by virtually all our neighbors and allies: Cyprus, France, Israel, Egypt. The European Union, which will examine its relations with Turkey at the next Summit, which will start in two days, but also the Arab world, I would say the whole international community.
Because at a time when old enemies are becoming friends, such as Israel with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, waves of threats and rivalry should not rise in the Mediterranean. It is, after all, a sea of strategic importance to the United States, as clearly stated in the East Med Act. But it is also a key area for global stability.
I am pleased to note that Mr Pompeo shares our views. That he understands that the tension between two NATO member states, in the end, does not benefit anyone. And that it is opposed to any arbitrary action that a priori torpedoes any bona fide dialogue. And that, of course, international law must remain the constant compass for all of us.
After all, he knows our readiness. Both for exploratory contacts, which we expect to begin soon, and for the technical process that is evolving within the framework of NATO, the Atlantic Alliance. I am, therefore, moderately optimistic that now it is the turn of diplomacy.
Honorable Secretary of State, dear friend Mike,
Your visit, here, forged another link in the strong ties between Greece and the United States, launching new perspectives for multilevel cooperation between the two countries.
I am sure that you also draw new strength from Crete to serve the great ideals that made your country great: Freedom, Equality, Justice.
Soon we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution, a Revolution that was inspired by the American Revolution. And I think it will be a great opportunity to give a common account of what has been done, but also of what we can achieve together. And these are too many.
I wish you a good stay on our island. And good and productive follow-up to our discussions. Welcome again.