Souda Bay is of strategic significance for the United States, as US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt pointed out today, while welcoming the Prespa Agreement, stressing that it creates opportunities for stability and progress in the wider Balkan region.
Mr. Pyatt attended the ceremony organized by the Embassies of Hungary, the Republic of Poland and the Czech Republic in Athens with the support of the US Embassy in Athens to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their NATO membership.
The event was held at the Marine Prevention Training Center (NMIOTC) in Souda. At the end of the ceremony, a strategic think-tank debate took place at the Center’s amphitheater on “Building the Transatlantic Family – 70 years of NATO, 20 years of membership of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary”.
The US Ambassador was one of the speakers at the conference. In his speech he referred to the geostrategic importance of Greece, stressing that this fact has been well understood by US military leaders.
Mr Pyatt stressed the need to coordinate actions not only in military terms but with economic growth, energy autonomy, and stability and people-to-people connectivity, underlining that all these parameters are important to protect and maintain security. That is why Greece is so important, Mr. Pyatt added. Because he continued, it is geographically linked to the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East, North Africa, and Western Europe.
The US Ambassador also pointed out the need to look for ways to “build” an arc of stability in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, noting that “the good news is that we are making progress.” As she mentioned as a US Ambassador to Greece in the past three years, she had the opportunity to see very closely how our country used its exit from the financial crisis to take on a leading role in a way that stabilizes the region.
“A clear example is the door opened with the Prespa Agreement, thanks to which we are in the process of joining NATO as the 30th member of NATO,” Mr Paiat said.
At the same time, he welcomed the fact that, as he said, the political and military leaderships in Greece and North Macedonia came close for the creation of closer ties. “With every step we make to welcome North Macedonia to NATO – and I hope one day in the European Union – we are setting up conditions that improve trade, economic growth, and stability building,” Mr Pyatt noted.
He added that the US believes that the Prespa Agreement has created opportunities for the progress of all countries in the Western Balkans. The US Ambassador also referred to the issues of NATO’s military alliance, but also to the energy developments in the wider region of the Southeastern Mediterranean, pointing out that the countries that up to now are 100% reliant on Russian gas are now being “liberated” (he made a nominal reference to Russian GAZPROM interests). He also said that Russia is using energy issues and gas as a political weapon.
Mr. Payat made a special reference to Souda Bay, pointing out that it remained a top issue in US-Greece relations, and welcomed the fact that cooperation between the two countries is tight and lasting. At the same time, he expressed his gratitude for the strong support of National Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis and the chief of the General Staff of Hellenes Abroad, Major Christos Christodoulou.
“I can tell you that when I talk to the political leaders in Washington and the US Congress, our cooperation in the Souda bay is at the top of the agenda,” he said.
Mr. Pyatt also referred to the Marine Prevention Training Center (KENAP), noting that he did not have the attention he deserves. He noted that it is unique that his work is vital, that he has helped many countries that are not NATO members, while at the same time demonstrating the important role of Greece.