US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Greece next week to reduce tensions in the Mediterranean with Turkey, said a senior State Department official.
Speaking at a press conference, which Asharq Al-Awsat attended, the official indicated that it is within the US’ political, security, and economic interests to hold discussions and dialogue between NATO allies and European friends.
He announced that Pompeo’s tour will begin Sunday and include: Greece, Italy, the Holy See, and Croatia.
The official emphasized that the US does not wish to be a party to the dispute between Greece and Turkey, despite the belief that the visit to Athens is seen as a support to it, as Ankara escalates the situation on the rights of gas exploration.
“Greece and Turkey of course are both allies there. We face collective threats, and those have intensified in terms of some of the strategic competition.”
He added that it is Pompeo's second visit to Greece within a year, and aims to strengthen the country's ability to be independent in its sources of energy and to enhance bilateral relations.
The visit “will underscore just how strong US-Greek ties have become over the last few years. US-Greek relations are at a generational high, and this coming visit will underscore a year of real successes in our bilateral relationship,” announced the official.
He also informed reporters that Pompeo will head to Crete to meet with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and visit the Naval Support Activity at Souda Bay. He indicated that Pompeo will reiterate Washington’s commitment to peace and stability in the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, Turkey Program Senior Director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), Aykan Erdemir, described Pompeo's statement on East Med as mere “tactical.”
Erdemir told Asharq Al-Awsat that Erdogan depends on Trump to ensure his country is not sanctioned, and it seems that Washington recently joined Germany in pressuring the EU against imposing sanctions on Turkey.
The expert said it is only a matter of time before Erdogan recreate tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and destabilizes NATO for more concessions from his Western counterparts.
During his visit to Cyprus two weeks ago, Pompeo urged Turkey to halt activities that could lead to hostilities in the Sea, calling on all parties to maintain diplomacy.
Turkey is in dispute with both Greece and Cyprus over oil and gas resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, which raises fears of intense conflict in the region.
The dispute escalated on August 10, when Turkey sent gas exploration ships and warships to the disputed waters.
The situation further worsened when both Turkey and Greece held military exercises last month. However, tensions eased after they announced the resumption of negotiations.
The Turkish President’s policies towards NATO allies as well as neighboring countries, except Iran and Qatar, increase Turkey's isolation, according to the expert.