THESSALONIKI – The United States is conveying its steadfast support for Greece and applauds its efforts to manage the tension with Turkey, US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt told the Athens-Maceonian News Agency (ANA) on Monday evening, during a reception in Thessaloniki to celebrate US Independence Day on July 4.
Speaking of energy, he called recent concessions signed for hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation off Crete “a big step forward” and made extensive mention of Greece’s role as a European energy hub. Northern Greece in particular, he said, “is positioned to be right at the center of this larger vision of Greece as an essential partner in helping to build energy diversification and energy security across southeastern Europe.”
Among other issues, Pyatt denied rumors of having met with North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in northern Greece, expressing instead his joy at having paid a visit to the Halkidiki peninsula for the first time.
The interview to ANA journalist Sofia Papadopoulou follows below:
ANA: Could you comment on recent tensions Turkey has created with Greece?
Ambassador Pyatt: So, our message is one of support for Greece and support for the steps that the Greek government has taken to lower tensions, to advance dialogue. We are very aware of the uncertainties that are coming from Ankara right now, but we also appreciate the steps that have been taken, including by the Greek Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Defense in recent days in order to keep a dialogue around confidence building and related measures going forward, and I think it’s also very important to recognize that in this political season here in Greece, with a very hotly contested national debate and national elections, Turkey is an issue where the Greek people speak with one voice. And I think that’s an important signal not just from the governing party, but from the opposition.
What would say on the S-400 issue, of Turkey’s determination to purchase the Russian system?
We remain very concerned. (Commenting on the recent meeting between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Japan, on the sidelines of the G20 meeting:) I’m not going to second guess the words of my president and I’ll leave it to the Turkish government to speak for itself, but I think you saw a clear reiteration from the White House over the weekend regarding our grave concerns about the S-400 transaction and the incompatibility between that and Turkey’s desire to be part of the F-35 program.
How would you describe Greek-American relations, and how would the general elections results affect them?
(Relations are) 100% solid. This is a relationship that’s not about personalities or individual political parties. It’s between our two nations, between our peoples. I think we’ve demonstrated that very clearly over the past few years,and I am confident that if the opposition is victorious, if the Greek people choose New Democracy to head the next government, that we will be able to sustain and continue in a very dynamic way the great progress that we’ve made in recent years in the relationship between our two countries, anchored in the Strategic Dialogue, which we are committed to carry ahead in line with the instructions that were given last December.
What would you say on the energy agreement signed in Crete and the prospects of Greece as a European energy hub?
A big step forward! It’s already happening, and northern Greece is right at the center of this process with the TAP pipeline, the IGB now beginning work, and the prospect of early progress on the FSRU in Alexandroupoli, and also energy infrastructure links between Thessaloniki and North Macedonia. So you see how northern Greece is positioned to be right at the center of this larger vision of Greece as an essential partner in helping to build energy diversification and energy security across southeastern Europe.
Did you travel anywhere beyond Thessaloniki?
I’m excited because I used the weekend to have my first visit to Halkidiki. It was beautiful. I saw more fish, I think, than I’ve seen any place else in Greece while I was snorkeling! I did not meet with President Zaev, so don’t believe everything you see in the press, but it was a beautiful weekend. I’ll definitely look for an opportunity to come back and spend some more time.