Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020

Pompeo wraps up Greece visit with naval base tour

SOÚDA, GREECE (AFP) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday (Sept 29) concludes a two-day visit to Greece with a tour of a strategically vital Nato base.

Mr Pompeo will visit the Souda facility in Crete with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on a trip aimed at easing tensions between Greece and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.

Washington has urged the Nato allies and neighbours, who have agreed to continue exploratory talks interrupted in 2016, to find “good solutions” to disputes exacerbated by energy exploration disagreements.

“We hope the exploratory talks not only get kicked off right, but it’s important that they’re resolved in a way that delivers outcomes that each of the two nations find more than acceptable,” Mr Pompeo told Greek state agency ANA on Monday.

“It’s not just talking, we need to get to good solutions,” he added.

Greece and Turkey have spent weeks at loggerheads after Ankara sent exploration vessels into disputed, potentially resource-rich waters in a crisis that roped in other European powers and raised concern about a wider escalation.

In a joint statement on Monday after talks in Thessaloniki in northern Greece, Mr Pompeo and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias said rival claims to territory in the Mediterranean should be resolved “peacefully in accordance with international law”.

The 44-hectare Naval Support Activity base at Souda is the foremost US naval facility in the eastern Mediterranean.

Mr Mitsotakis – who is hosting Mr Pompeo at his family home in Crete – wants closer military ties with the United States.

Mr Pompeo last October signed a defence agreement with Greek authorities allowing US forces a broader use of Greek military facilities.

Greece intends to further upgrade the naval facilities at Souda for its own navy operations, Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told Parliament on Monday.

“Our country wants to make its presence felt in the eastern Mediterranean, and this will be done through the upgrade of Souda,” Mr Panagiotopoulos said, according to ANA.

On Wednesday, Mr Pompeo will fly to Rome for meetings with Italian government and Vatican officials.

He will subsequently visit Croatia.

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