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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

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.

REPORTER: (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.