U.S., Greece agree to enhance East Med security during Pompeo visit

The United States and Greece agreed to cooperate in enhancing the security of the region with all appropriate means possible.

The two governments issued the statement following talks between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Athens on Monday.

Pompeo has flown to the Greek capital after a dispute erupted between Greece and Turkey over territories in the Mediterranean. Washington and the European Union have sided with Greece and its rights under international law, while urging fellow NATO member Turkey to withdraw drill ships and its navy from the area. The two countries are due to hold talks on de-escalating the tensions.

The United States and Greece also reiterated their desire to strengthen cooperation in various sectors under the framework of the so-called 3+1 format, a plan also involving Cyprus and Israel and introduced in March last year.

“This partnership can contribute to the promotion of peace, stability, security, and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean and the wider region,” the two governments said.

Earlier this month, countries including Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt established a regional natural gas forum to explore for and export the commodity to global markets. Turkey has so far been excluded from the organisation.

The United States and Greece also agreed to further enhance their strategic defence and security partnership by expanding and deepening the U.S.-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement, last updated in October 2019, the governments said.

The European Union is due to meet for a summit this week when it will consider possible economic sanctions against Turkey for exploring for hydrocarbons near Cyprus, Crete and the small island of Kastellorizo, which lies just off Turkey’s southern coast.

The EU summit should be used as an opportunity to enhance relations with Turkey, Turkish Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın said, Reuters reported on Monday.

Senior EU politicians have said that the bloc is unlikely to follow through on its threat to impose sanctions on Turkey after Ankara agreed to resume exploratory talks with Greece, halted in 2016.

On Sunday, Greece called on Turkey to condemn and investigate reports that a Greek flag painted on a rocky hillside on Kastellorizo had been deliberately stained. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the incident, Reuters reported.