US Ambassador to Athens: US-Greek cooperation closer than ever

“Deepening the U.S.-Greece bilateral relationship is an issue above partisan politics. The key to this happy state of affairs is our converging security interests, our shared values and our shared goals on regional security, stability, and prosperity,” noted US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt while speaking at an event organised by the Greek Institute of European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) on Greece’s geopolitical value and the Greek-American relations. The event was held at a central Athens hotel on Tuesday evening.

The Strategic Dialogue elevated and institutionalized our relationship in a manner consistent with how many of the Embassy’s long-time friends have viewed the U.S.-Greece alliance. And I want to thank Foreign Minister George Katrougalos for recently hosting a bilateral working group to follow up on several of these areas with a broad assembly of Greek government experts – reflecting how both of our governments are committed to building on the foundation that the Strategic Dialogue provides,” Pyatt said.

At the Munich Security Conference, Prime Minister Tsipras met with a large, bipartisan and very senior delegation from the U.S. Congress, all of whom expressed their strong appreciation for Greece’s role as a pillar of stability in the region, Greece’s impressive contributions during the refugee crisis, its creative implementation of the Prespes Agreement, and the effort to continue deepening the bilateral defense and security relationship, the US ambassador added.

“In Washington, the stock of the U.S.-Greece relationship today is higher than it has been for many years, and that is reflected as well in the unprecedentedly large American delegation that will be at the Delphi Forum this weekend,” he said.

Pyatt also referred to the statements made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his visit to Greece: “As Secretary of State Pompeo said in December in his press conference with Minister Katrougalos, the Strategic Dialogue capped a year ‘historic progress’ as our two countries ‘have turned opportunities into concrete achievements.’ ‘Greece has been a critical ally of the United States,’ and ‘Now more than ever,’ [Pompeo] added, ‘we are pleased to see Greece emerge once again as a leader – a pillar of regional stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.’

“‘The U.S.,’ he reiterated, ‘is looking to strengthen our relationship with stable democracies and allies there, allies like Greece and Cyprus and Israel.’ Secretary Pompeo then turned to Minister Katrougalos and reiterated that ‘The U.S. recognizes you as a key player in the region, and we want to thank you so much for being an excellent ally.’ “So that’s what my boss said, and I think it sums up pretty well how we think about our relationship as Greece heads into an election year.”

On energy Pyatt said that “we are seeing the historic completion of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, the successful expansion of the Revythoussa gas terminal, and irreversible progress on the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector, the IGB. All these projects help to put Greece on the world energy map as a contributor to the diversity of energy sources and as a hub for this region”.

The expansion of the Revythoussa LNG terminal was immediately followed by the first delivery of U.S. LNG, another important milestone, which we celebrated at the Strategic Dialogue, which in turn contributes greatly to energy security in the wider region. We expect a second U.S. LNG delivery very soon and remain actively engaged, as well, to support the Floating Regasification Unit in Alexandropoulis, Pyatt said

On trade and investment, over the past year, “we’ve seen some big, new American projects in the tourism industry through Avis, Hyatt, Marriott and others, and the Neorion shipyard in Syros through Onex. We are hearing from more and more American investors that they are again interested in Greece; however, increasing U.S. investment will also require increased commitment on the Greek side to reforms and transparent privatisations. We are encouraged that the Request for Proposals for the Hellenikon project was issued last week, and we are hopeful that some top U.S. entertainment companies will put forward competitive and compelling bids for that transformative project”.

The US ambassador also highlighted the upcoming SelectUSA Summit, in Washington. “Greek businesses – like Pyramis in Thessaloniki, which is a top supplier to IKEA in America, or Yoleni’s, – have used SelectUSA to help in their efforts to expand their operations in the U.S., reinforcing our mutually beneficial business ties”.
Pyatt also referred to the two countries’ cooperation in defence, security and in tackling terrorism noting that’s its closest than ever.

On people-to-people ties, with the support of the Ministry of Education, he said that they moved forward this year with the launch of a new education exchange program in Greece – the Future Leaders Exchange Program, or FLEX.
He also said that FLEX will provide scholarships for 10 Greek high school students – students from public schools across Greece, who otherwise would not have such an opportunity to study in the United States for a year. “And as we pledged at the Strategic Dialogue, we will be bringing in a large regional educational conference, the Gilman Scholar Summit, to northern Greece later this year. And meanwhile, U.S. universities like Princeton, the University of Virginia and NYU continue to expand their presence here”.

“I am excited about the momentum building in the U.S.-Greece relationship, and I am delighted that there is a growing constituency in Washington that now understands and appreciates Greece’s critical regional role”, the US envoy said, while at another point noting that “every U.S. delegation that passes through Athens expresses a similar appreciation for Greece’s unique geopolitical role.”