Greece's Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt on Friday paid a visit to the port of Alexandroupolis to observe the work underway for raising the sunken dredger "Olga", which is taking place with funding from the U.S. Army. They were accompanied by the shipping ministry's secretary-general for ports, Evangelos Kyriakopoulos, and the U.S. Consul in Thessaloniki Gregory Pfleger.
In statements during the visit, Panagiotopoulos said there was a "following wind" in Greek-U.S. relations and noted that the raising of the sunken ship will allow bigger ships to dock at the port of Alexandroupolis, boosting the prospects of the port, the city of Alexandroupolis and the surrounding region of Thrace.
He also highlighted the importance of the city's geostrategic position, the port's developmental and economic prospects and the energy prospects of the region, in addition to the strategic relations of partnership and trust with the United States.
Referring to the possible use of the port by U.S. military forces when the need arose, Panagiotopoulos said that this "further strengthens our strategic defence relationship with the United States and its cooperation with the Greek armed forces, thus contributing to regional stability and security. This strategic relationship of cooperation between the two countries is a central strategic policy of this government."
The U.S. has been Greece's great ally in war and peace, the minister added, and the two countries were now working together to establish stability in the region, with the raising of the dredger as "tangible proof of a relationship of cooperation that has grown slowly but steadily, and now at a faster rate, into a strategic relationship of trust".
The minister emphasised that Greece was a peaceful and democratic country but one "that is ready at any time to defend and fully protect its sovereign rights, which arise from international treaties and international law and our own national rights, for the benefit of every Greek man and woman."
Pyatt, on his part, referred to the port as a "crucial link for European energy security and economic growth" and emphasised the prospects created by its future privatisation, as well as America's relationship with the city. He expressed hope that the privatisation will be done "in a way that makes it attractive for U.S. companies to participate in the tender."
The ambassador pointed out that Greece and the U.S. had chosen to cooperate closely in this part of the country "to promote our common interests and promote security", referring to the military cooperation between the two sides.
"The embassy's cooperation with the U.S. Army Europe and the Hellenic Army helps deepen our relations with Greece," Pyatt said, adding that he looks forward to the next transfer of military equipment and personnel to Stefanovikio.
"We are cooperating as partners but also as allies and our relations are at their best point," he said.
On the raising of the "Olga", the ambassador noted that the U.S. army has given 2.3 million dollars to finance the work, which will enable the full use of the port's capacity for both trade and military uses, while enhancing regional security and stability.
He went on to stress the importance of Alexandroupolis as an energy hub.
"Our work together benefits Greece, deepens our cooperation and strengthens the region," Pyatt said.