Greece is ready, willing and able to maintain and strengthen its leadership in preserving peace, security and stability in the Balkans and wider Mediterranean region, a vital US foreign policy and security interest.
This is the message the AHI delegation received after conducting a series of meetings with high-level government officials during the AHI Board Annual Trip to Greece between May 6-9, 2019.
Over the four-day period that culminated in the 15th Annual AHI Athens Dinner the AHI delegation, comprised of President Larigakis, and Board Members Dr. Athina Balta, Leon Andris and Kostas Alexakis met with President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Minister of Defense Evangelos Apostolakis, Greek Chief of the General Staff Christos Christodoulou, Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos, Deputy Foreign Minister Terens Quick, Ambassador Elisabeth Fotiadou, director, A7 Directorate for North America, Ambassador Nikolaos Garilidis, director, A4 Directorate for Turkey, and Ambassador Sophia Grammata, director, A3 Directorate for Balkans at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey R. Pyatt.
Underlying all meetings was emphasis on the continuing improvement in recent years of the US-Greek relations. In July of 2018, during his Congressional testimony former Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell mentioned that the U.S. is cultivating Greece as an anchor of stability in the Mediterranean and the Western Balkans. Within less than a year we saw this statement developed into policy culminating to the US-Greek Strategic Dialogue in December of 2018. This year Secretary Mike Pompeo in his Greek Independence Day Message on March 25th referred to Greece as a “valued NATO Ally.”
Greece, an EU member state and NATO ally, is a pillar of stability in a complicated region. Its position in the Eastern Mediterranean in close proximity to the Balkans, the Black Sea region, North Africa, and the Middle East elevates Greece’s importance in addressing US national security and energy priorities. Greece has been one of the strongest US partners in helping to advance its energy agenda of European energy diversification.
The Strategic Dialogue, lunched in December of 2018 set out 7 areas of cooperation between the United States and Greece. Since then the two countries have continued to cooperate closely and the results are evident in all areas particularly in the areas of defense and counterterrorism. AHI, under the leadership of President Larigakis, has been very actively involved in supporting and strengthening security cooperation between the two countries. These efforts were formally recognized on May 6, 2019, with the Greek Minister of National Defense, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, awarding President Larigakis Medal of Honor and Valour for Larigakis’ work to strengthen US-Greek defense cooperation.
Domestically in Greece, investing in strategic relationship with the United States is becoming a national interest matter which transcends politics. Both the current government and opposition leadership seem to appreciate the value in this investment and demonstrate an openness to engage on major initiatives.
Challenges, however, remain. “You came at a very difficult moment today,” said Minister Apostolakis during the AHI delegation visit to the Pentagon on May 6, 2019 announcing that “a second Turkish ship is in the EEZ of Cyprus.” In recent weeks tension has escalated with the Turkish government attempts to drill in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), commence its largest naval exercise off the coast of Cyprus and suspicions that Turkey is considering similar drilling activities in areas close to the Dodecanese island of Kastellorizo, which are according to the UN Law of the Sea Convention 1982 are part of Greece’s EEZ, all while Turkey continues its blatant airspace and maritime violations in the Aegean.
While such actions have been met by strong condemnation by the international community AHI has long maintained that words alone have been an ineffective deterrent for Turkey. AHI continues to urge the US Administration to take a strong position to defend US national interests, uphold the rule of law and avoid the setting of very dangerous precedents in the region. Targeted sanctions on Turkey are long overdue.