SOUDA: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday concluded a two-day visit to Greece on with a tour of a strategically vital NATO base. 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,” 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, 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 110-acre (44-hectare) Naval Support Activity base at Souda is the foremost US naval facility in the eastern Mediterranean. Mitsotakis — who is hosting Pompeo at his family home in Crete — wants closer military ties with the United States.
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,” Panagiotopoulos said, according to ANA. Today, Pompeo will fly to Rome for meetings with Italian government and Vatican officials. He will subsequently visit Croatia.
Meanwhile, top diplomats from the United States, India, Australia and Japan will gather in Tokyo next week for rare face-to-face talks on tackling the coronavirus and strengthening co-operation, Japan said yesterday. The four nations have in recent years formed a strategic grouping — known as the “Quad” — meant to serve as a counterweight to China and promote their vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.
The meeting on October 6 will be attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced he would host the four-way talks — the second such meeting after the first was held in New York last year.
“It is the right time for these like-minded foreign ministers to gather in Tokyo for face-to-face talks, to exchange views about how to deal with issues that have emerged from the spread of the coronavirus, along with regional affairs,” he told reporters at a regular briefing. It will be the first ministerial-level international meeting hosted by Japan since the pandemic began, and also since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took power this month. Japan is moving gradually to open its borders to more foreigners, particularly business travellers, as it prepares to hold the postponed Olympics next summer. – AFP