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Pompeo Vows Support for Greece, Turkey 09/28 06:18

   

   THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday 
the United States will use its diplomatic and military influence in the region 
to try to ease a volatile dispute between NATO allies Greece and Turkey over 
energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

   Pompeo began a five-day regional tour Monday in the northern Greek city of 
Thessaloniki, days after Greece and Turkey committed to restarting a diplomatic 
dialogue on the dispute that triggered a dangerous military build-up --- and 
fears of military conflict --- in the disputed maritime area over the summer. 
"The United States and Greece shared views on the eastern Mediterranean and 
reaffirmed their belief that maritime delimitation issues should be resolved 
peacefully," the two countries said in a joint statement after Pompeo met with 
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias. The two countries, it said, "reiterated 
their dedication to enhancing their close cooperation as NATO allies, using all 
appropriate means at their disposal, in order to safeguard stability and 
security in the wider region." Relations between Greece and neighboring Turkey 
deteriorated sharply this year over disputed maritime boundaries and 
exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

   Turkey sent a research vessel, accompanied by warships, to prospect for 
energy resources in an area Greece claims is on its own continental shelf and 
where it claims exclusive economic rights. Athens sent warships of its own to 
the area.

   European Union members later this week are to discuss imposing sanctions on 
Turkey for its actions.

   Pompeo had discussed the situation in the eastern Mediterranean late Sunday 
with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg as he headed to Greece.

   Pompeo's regional tour will also include Italy, the Vatican, and Croatia.

   Later Monday, he will depart to the Greek island of Crete where he is 
scheduled to meet with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and visit a 
U.S. naval base at Souda Bay.

   Last October, Pompeo visited Athens and signed a revised defense cooperation 
agreement with Greece that provided for increasing joint U.S.-Greece and NATO 
activity at three locations in Greece as well as infrastructure and other 
improvements at Souda Bay.

   Amid the tension with Turkey, Greece has announced major arms purchases, 
including fighter jets from France, as well as warships, helicopters, and 
weapons systems.

   Pompeo is the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Greece's second-largest 
city of Thessaloniki. Security was tight in the port city, with the venue of 
Pompeo's meeting with Dendias changing from the originally planned location, a 
local ministry, to a hotel for security reasons, authorities said. A protest 
against his visit was planned for Monday evening.

   During his visit to Thessaloniki, Pompeo is to sign a bilateral science and 
technology agreement, as well as host energy sector business leaders for a 
discussion to highlight energy diversification and infrastructure projects in 
Greece. He will also join members of the city's Jewish community to commemorate 
Yom Kippur. No date has yet been set for the start of the Greek-Turkish 
exploratory talks. 

 
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