ALEXANDROUPOLIS — U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt on Friday underscored the United States' strategic commitment to northern Greece, in statements to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency while visiting the port of Alexandroupolis for the final phase of the inter-allied military exercise Defender-Europe 2021. VIPs visited Alexandroupolis on Friday for the start of the port authority's support of the exercise and the hosting of U.S. forces at the port.
Asked by ANA about the significance of the use of the Alexandroupolis port by US forces in actions such as that on Friday, as well as his own frequent visits to the region, for bilateral Greek-U.S. relations, Pyatt said that "this is a proof of our strategic commitment to northern Greece and of Alexandroupolis' role as a military logistics hub, an energy hub, a regional access hub and a transport hub."
"This was a region which, when I arrived in Greece in 2016, seemed somewhat forgotten. This is no longer the case. I am very proud of the partnerships we have built, not just with respect to military cooperation and security, which is exceptionally important, but also, for example, in energy, with the FSRU, the natural gas power station, the IGB and TAP pipelines," Pyatt said.
Alexandropoulis was a region that had become strategically important, he said, adding that "we are very proud" of the cooperation with the Greek government to promote "our common interests."
Pyatt had earlier been given a tour of the port with Greek National Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, the leadership of the Hellenic Army and other VIPs, and spoken about at the event about the strategic partnership between Greece and the U.S. in defence and security.
According to the ambassador, the many joint exercises conducted in recent weeks "highlight the accelerating tempo of our military-to-military relationship, which is anchored in our updated Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement. These engagements show the whole world that Greece and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder, together in support of regional peace and stability, just as we have done for the past two centuries.
"DEFENDER-Europe 21 in particular highlights Alexandroupoli’s strategic location and the critical asset that this port represents. This large-scale U.S. Army-led exercise, consisting of more than 28,000 multinational forces from 26 nations, is designed to build readiness and interoperability between the United States, NATO Allies, and partner militaries over a wide area of operations."
He also expressed appreciation for "Greece’s willingness to stage, host, and participate in this important exercise, which demonstrates the ability of the U.S. Army in Europe and Africa to serve as a strategic security partner in the western Balkans and Black Sea regions, as well as our iron-clad commitment to our NATO Alliance. As this exercise shows, the United States will remain present in the Balkan and Black Sea regions in order to provide deterrence against potential adversaries in defense of our allies."
"As part of DEFENDER-Europe 21, I look forward later to visiting Xanthi and Petrochori for the exercise IMMEDIATE RESPONSE/CENTAUR 21. There, U.S. and Hellenic Army units will train together, which includes more than 5,000 troops from 11 countries spread out across 31 training areas in southeast Europe.
"Together with the immense movement of troops and equipment through Alexandroupoli for DEFENDER-Europe 21, we also have forces in the region supporting the ongoing Operation Atlantic Resolve, which included the deployment of the 1stCAB to Europe through Alexandroupoli in February, and the redeployment of the 101st CAB that began in March and continues now, concluding next week when 41 helicopters will transit back to the United States.
"The confluence of these exercises and the sheer volume of military activity now happening in this port underscores Alexandroupoli’s growing strategic importance to Greece, to the United States, and to our alliance. It also further validates the investment that the U.S. Army in Europe and EUCOM have made in the Port of Alexandroupoli for the removal of the sunken dredger Olga. The Olga’s removal improved access, flexibility, and capacity at the port, enabling us to welcome the ARC Endurance and other large ships such as the Liberty, which just left last evening.
"I’ve visited Alexandroupoli six times now, because this city plays a leading role in our countries’ shared goals of increasing European energy security and regional stability, as well as combating climate change."
The ambassador also referred to the interest shown by U.S. companies BlackSummit and Quintana in the privatizations in Alexandroupoli and Kavala, noting that these ports "support critical energy infrastructure in the region, including the Alexandroupoli floating storage and regassification unit".
"The FSRU and the Alexandroupoli natural gas power plant are also important tools for reaching Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ ambitious climate change goals. They will enable Greece to be among the early countries to phase out lignite coal power. This is an important step and an example for the rest of the world, one which the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation is interested to support," he added.
"So as we mark the 200th anniversary of the Greek war of independence, I want to thank the Greek government for its steadfast commitment to regional security, and in particular, its support of U.S. and Allied military operations. Our countries have stood together as friends and allies for two centuries, and the work of American philhellenes continues today with the deployment of U.S. forces through Alexandroupoli, reaffirming our commitment to advancing our joint defense and security goals," Pyatt said, adding that bilateral Strategic Dialogue and the update MDCA "will continue to offer opportunities for mutually beneficial collaboration as we take our alliance to the next level under President Biden’s leadership."