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Politics

Pyatt on Greek-Turkish Relations: “US Strongly Supports Getting back to Diplomacy”

November 6, 2020

THESSALONIKI — The United States "strongly supports Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the Greek government's focus on getting back to diplomacy" in relations with Turkey, US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt told the online Thessaloniki Summit on Thursday.

The top priority for the US, for Germany and for all of Greece's European Union partners is the revival of the exploratory talks, and the American government is "working very hard" to support Mitsotakis in this, Pyatt underlined.

"I don’t think there are any two NATO allies who are more strongly aligned than Greece and the United States on the principle that, no matter what, we have to keep Turkey anchored in the West," he noted, adding, "We have to find a way to reach out to the Turkish government and Turkish society to build opportunities for collaboration and to work together as NATO allies."

Concerning the port of Alexandroupolis, the ambassador said "it has been a special priority" for him, and its privatization the focus of the United States. He welcomed the interest expressed by two American coalitions and that of the US Development Finance Corporation, which would involve American finance agencies "in supporting the American presence there."

Pyatt underlined that the United States "want(s) to see this strategic asset remain in Western hands." The port is also the location of the Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) for natural gas, and in that regard the ambassador welcomed Wednesday's signing by the Hellenic Gas Transmission System Operator (DESFA) to share 20 pct of the Gastrade project of building the FSRU. He called the natural gas project "another strategic priority of the United States."

Acknowledging the Greek government's energy policy, Pyatt said that the prospect of a new gas-fired electricity power plant in Alexandroupolis will help Greece meet PM Mitsotakis' goal of eliminating lignite-powered electricity production by 2028. The city, which "felt very distant" from Athens when he first visited, Pyatt said, "is suddenly emerging as a strategic crossroads."

Apropos the recent Athens visit of Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov, the ambassador was asked whether Russia could play a mediating role between Greece and Turkey. Pyatt expressed scepticism about this possibility, commenting that Russia was trying to "sow division" within NATO and between the US and Europe. He added however that "it's perfectly normal that Lavrov should come here and engage with Foreign Minister Dendias. Greece has a long-standing relationship with Russia."

On the other hand, Greece "has itself firmly planted in the West," Pyatt said, and said that commitments for energy security and stability in the region matched those of the US. Russia's delivery of the S-4000 missile system to Turkey is not helping, he said, adding, "I see it as a huge threat to Greece and regional stability."

Finally, responding to a question about the unfolding US elections, he said that regardless of what the American people decide, "we will be in a very good point regarding Greek-American relations because there is a strong consensus on both sides to strengthen what we are doing here." This, he noted, is reflected in the EastMed Act as well as in the "fantastically warm reception" of PM Mitsotakis last January in Washington, by both Republicans and Democrats.

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