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Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ statement following his meeting with Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo (Athens, 5 October 2019)

Saturday, 05 October 2019

20191005_koines_diloseis_dendias_pompeoMinister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ statement following his meeting with Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo (Athens, 5 October 2019)

N. DENDIAS: “Dear Secretary of State, dear Mike, before I begin, allow me to speak in English. I welcome you to Athens. Your presence here today is evidence of the close ties between Greece and the United States. Ties that go back 200 years and that today are stronger than ever.

And now, allow me to continue in Greek.

I am very pleased that today, in your presence, I and Mike Pompeo, my American colleague, signed the new defence cooperation agreement between Greece and the United States.

An agreement that, as updated today, significantly upgrades our countries’ strategic cooperation, while at the same time highlighting in the best possible way our shared will to ensure the effectiveness of our defensive capabilities.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Minister of Defence, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, for his collaboration and assistance in this joint effort.

The new momentum in Greek-U.S. relations is not a transient momentum. After a decade of introversion as a result of the crisis, our country is returning with confidence to the international stage. We are redefining our relations with our closest allies, and we are in a position to fulfil our role as a pillar of stability and security in our immediate environs and in the wider region. A region beset by chronic conflicts, threats and illegal conduct that undermine international legality.

Obviously, ladies and gentlemen, I am referring to Turkey’s intention to carry out new drilling operations in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone. This decision follows on a series of violations of the sovereignty and sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus. It violates International Law, it violates the European acquis and it undermines every effort to consolidate peace and cooperation in the region.

The strategic upgrading of our cooperation with the United States constitutes, in itself, a guarantee of security and a source of stability, development and prosperity.

It would be no exaggeration to argue that Greek-American relations are at their historical zenith and that the capstone of this new stage we have entered is without doubt the Strategic Dialogue, the second round of which begins on Monday.

This is also proof of the commitment of Greece and the United States of America to reaching a holistic strategic vision of our cooperation that includes all of those sectors in which, until today, we were developing independently of each other.

Thus, our cooperation extends from regional issues, defence and security to economy, trade, investments, combating terrorism, the relations between our societies and, of course, energy issues. With regard to energy, what is still essentially at stake is energy security and diversification of energy sources and routes.

To implement all of these plans, we are collaborating intensively with our American allies, jointly promoting cooperation, regional stability and security, but always based on international law.

With these thoughts, I would like to welcome, once again, my dear colleague Mike Pompeo to Athens. To wish him a pleasant stay and  express my conviction that today we are ushering in a new era.

Allow me to conclude as I began, in English, reading out to him part of an unpublished letter that Theodoros Kolokotronis addressed to Senator Edward Everett in 1826.

I’m reading it in translation. “The people of Greece are not ungrateful to their benefactors.  We are grateful to everyone who, in stentorian voice, proclaims our epic struggle.  We have recorded their names, which will remain forever in the annals of Greece’s rebirth, a reminder through the ages, for us and the generations to come, of their contribution.”

Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Foreign Minister Dendias.
I think this is the third time that we’ve seen each other in 90 days, or 89 days. And it has been important and productive each time we’ve met, so thank you very much for spending so much time with me.
It’s an incredible privilege for me to be here today in Greece representing the United States of America. Our countries have always been linked, and not only because Madison and Jefferson looked to ancient Athenians for democracy and wisdom. Freedom-loving Americans fought on your side during your war for independence, and we will soon celebrate the 200th anniversary of your liberty in 2021, and we’re looking forward to that.
After World War II, our two nations grew even closer together through the Marshall Plan and NATO. And the Greek people living in America keep the bonds between our people strong. There were many in my home district in south central Kansas, and they kept me straight. These ties have helped set the table for the historic period we’re in today. This is truly a pivotal point in American and Greek relations. And I’ll talk more about that this afternoon.
The Greek-American relationship has literally never been stronger. This was clear from the first Greek-American Strategic Dialogue I hosted in Washington last year. Our countries will host a second one starting on Monday of this week. It’s a chance to make progress on bilateral issues, but much more, too.
This dialogue represents the dawn of a new day between our countries.
It demonstrates our shared commitment to democracy, and it will help Greece grow as a partner for strategic stability in Europe, and indeed throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.
My conversation with Greece’s leaders today touched on each of these themes. Last summer, after trying many different ways forward, Greeks voted for leaders who will cut red tape, lower taxes, privatize key sectors of the economy. These reforms will help Greece recover fully from hard times, will create jobs for Greek citizens, and give young people reason to put down roots in or return to their home country.
I told the foreign minister that our diplomats would do their part to help Greece bounce back. We already have, and we will continue to do that. We can make the case for Greece to American businesses. Already companies like Pfizer, Cisco, and Tesla are investing in this new Greece, with others potentially coming in as part of the Hellinikon Project. Many more U.S. companies will recognize that Greece is adapting its business climate in a very favorable way.
Further, on the topic of Greece’s economic growth, as I’ve done in other nations on this trip, I raised our concerns about Chinese investments in technology and infrastructure, but I spent a lot more time encouraging Greece’s leaders to see that American businesses operate with the highest levels of transparency and respect for law. We are natural partners for this important moment.
We just signed an important document, too. Our security cooperation continues to grow. This agreement will allow our burgeoning military cooperation to continue and make way for investments in military infrastructure that we will both benefit from.
And finally, too – the foreign minister touched on this – the United States is eager to grow our partnership with Greece on a range of energy issues for the sake of your prosperity and a stable Eastern Mediterranean region. Last March I met with the leaders of Cypress, Greece, and Israel in Jerusalem. We, free countries, with free markets, want to achieve energy security together.
We want to make sure that rules govern international exploration of the Mediterranean Sea’s energy resources, and that no country can hold Europe hostage.
There’s no shortage of good developments happening in this relationship, and we seek to make our new level of unity permanent. And I’ll talk more about that this afternoon. Thank you.
MODERATOR: The ministers will take a rather limited number of questions. Yes, please. Mr. Michalis Ignatiou from OPEN TV channel.

JOURNALIST: Mr. Secretary, I’m Michalis Ignatiou from OPEN TV. And I wanted to ask you this: Prime Minister Mitsotakis spoke to you today about the provocations by Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. And as we understand, he asked for your help. Is it possible to tell us what was your answer? If you share his concerns about this? And also I have another question. Your people in Washington told us many times that buying S-400 by Turkey means sanctions. Why we don’t see any sanctions today, Mr. Secretary? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’ll answer your second question first. We are having conversations with the Turks. We’ve made clear our view with respect to the S-400 and U.S. law, and we’ll continue to always make sure that we do that.
With respect to Turkish – you’re speaking about their actions off of Cyprus with respect to energy, is that right? The first question?  [….]  Yeah, so I won’t tell you what I told him, because I don’t talk about private conversations, but I can certainly tell you how America thinks about this. We’ve made clear that operations in international waters are governed by a set of rules. We have told the Turks that illegal drilling is unacceptable, and we’ll continue to take diplomatic action to make sure that we do, as we do always: ensure that the lawful activity takes place in every space where international law governs.
MODERATOR: Mr. Athanassopoulos, To Vima daily.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Secretary, welcome to Athens. I would like to follow up to my Greek colleague’s question, and I would like to ask you: Would the United States consider offering some clear and unwavering guarantees, political or other ones, in order to support Greece against Turkey’s aggressive stance both in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Aegean Sea? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: You actually asked a really easy question; I’ll ask the foreign minister to chime in a little bit, too.

We never get out in front of our diplomacy and talk about things we will never do or things that we intend to do until we have made decisions about that. That would certainly apply here as well. But you should know we understand the risks, we’re very well aware of the activities that are taking place. We’re working closely to try to accomplish a couple things.

We made clear that the militarization of these conflicts is not the right direction to go, so we’re working to get the parties to – everyone to de-escalate and find a set of outcomes that are mutually agreeable. But a couple of boundaries, including what I said earlier: We can’t let anyone – Turkey is the topic of the day – engage in illegal drilling activity.

JOURNALIST: (Question on the signing of the defence agreement)

N. DENDIAS: Thank you for the question. I want to be precise. This agreement, for us, has three different dimensions. First, it has the national dimension.  We believe that this agreement is fully in Greece’s interest. It is in our interest because it increases the American defence footprint in the country. We see this as positive, because it facilitates transfer of know-how from the United States to Greece and to the Greek Armed Forces, and also because it is a wider factor for creating economic activity in the country.

But we also believe, in the context of our bilateral relations and in the context of our relations with NATO and the broader role we want to play in the region as we emerge from the crisis – I have said repeatedly, and these are the words of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis – that Greece is returning to the international stage.

So, in this context, we consider this agreement to be a factor for stability in the region.  It strengthens Greece, it strengthens bilateral relations, it serves the interest of the United States, and it functions as a factor for stability in the wider region. And, as such, a factor, which is not directed against anyone, but is nevertheless real and visible in the context of the rules that exist; a factor that stands as a message to anyone in this region who thinks they can operate outside the rules of international law and the Law of the Sea.

We must all act within the framework of international rules. The global community – humanity, if you will – has come a long way since the gunboat diplomacy era.  We are now in the era of Laws and of understanding amongst peoples.  Any country or leadership that fails to understand this is simply in another era.  And we are sincerely pursuing good neighbourly relations with everyone. We understand everyone’s positions, but we operate within the imperative framework of International Law that we have achieved in the 21st century.

Thank you.