US, Greece call for peaceful resolution of maritime disputes in east Mediterranean

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (C,L) and Greek Minister for Development and Investment Adonis Georgiadis (C,R) share an elbow bump greeting during a signing agreement ceremony in the northern city of Thessaloniki, on Sept. 28, 2020. (AFP)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second right, is welcomed by US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt, second left, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece on Sept. 28, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 29 September 2020

US, Greece call for peaceful resolution of maritime disputes in east Mediterranean

  • US welcomed Greece’s readiness to seek maritime agreements with its neighbors
  • Tensions escalated last month after Turkey entered into a disputed maritime area

ATHENS: The United States and Greece called on Monday for a peaceful resolution of maritime disputes in the east Mediterranean as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began a two-day trip to Greece amid increased regional tension over energy resources.
NATO allies Greece and Turkey, at loggerheads on a range of issues, have agreed to resume exploratory talks over contested maritime claims following weeks of tensions.
“The United States and Greece ... reaffirmed their belief that maritime delimitation issues should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law,” the United States and Greece, also NATO allies, said in a joint statement after Pompeo met his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias.
The United States also welcomed Greece’s readiness to seek maritime agreements with its neighbors in the region, they said after meeting in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.
Tensions escalated last month after Turkey dispatched the Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel, escorted by gunboats, into a disputed area thought to be rich in energy resources, following a maritime agreement signed between Greece and Egypt.
Turkey has said the pact infringes on its own continental shelf. The agreement also overlaps with maritime zones Turkey agreed with Libya last year, decried as illegal by Greece.
Ankara recalled the Oruc Reis this month, saying it wished to give diplomacy a chance.
Pompeo said on Monday he hoped the exploratory talks, which are expected to resume soon, will also bring results.
“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 the Athens News Agency.
Pompeo has previously said the United States is “deeply concerned” about Turkish actions in the east Mediterranean.
ENERGY TIES
The United States also hopes to build up its energy ties with Greece, which seeks to become an energy hub in the Balkans and help Europe to diversify its energy resources.
Athens already imports large quantities of US liquefied natural gas (LNG). It is developing a floating LNG storage and regasification unit off the port of Alexandroupolis, which is expected to channel gas to Bulgaria via the Interconnector Greece — Bulgaria (IGB) pipeline and from there to central Europe by early 2023.
ExxonMobil, France’s Total and Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum have set up a joint venture that will look for gas and oil off the Greek island of Crete.
The United States has also expressed interest in the privatization of the ports of Alexandroupolis and Kavala in northern Greece.
Pompeo and Greek Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis also signed on Monday a science and technology agreement. The two countries want to collaborate on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, 5G and privatization of strategic infrastructure, their joint statement said.
Pompeo arrived in Crete on Monday evening. He was due to stay at the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ residence and visit the Souda military base on Crete on Tuesday.


Algerian president, 75, self isolates as pandemic spreads

Updated 39 min 37 sec ago

Algerian president, 75, self isolates as pandemic spreads

  • Tebboune is self isolating because some officials in “upper ranks of the government” are sick with COVID-19
  • “I assure you, my brothers and sisters, that I am well and healthy and that I continue my work,” he said

ALGIERS: Algeria’s 75-year-old President Abdelmadjid Tebboune is self isolating because some officials in “upper ranks of the government” are sick with COVID-19, he said in a Tweet on Saturday.
Tebboune took office in December in an election that came amidst months of mass protests which forced his predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power after 20 years.
“I assure you, my brothers and sisters, that I am well and healthy and that I continue my work,” he said, saying his decision was taken on the advice of medical staff.
The global pandemic struck Algeria’s economy as it faced long-term challenges posed by the decline of the oil and gas revenues that finance its historically lavish state spending.
So far, Algeria has officially confirmed more than 55,000 cases of the coronavirus with nearly 2,000 deaths.
Though the pandemic forced an end to the weekly mass protest marches through Algiers and other cities that lasted for more than a year, the political challenges remain.
Tebboune has pushed for changes to Algeria’s referendum to limit presidential terms while expanding the powers of the parliament and judiciary.
However, many people in the leaderless protest movement believe their core goals of replacing the old ruling elite and forcing the army to stay out of politics remain unmet.
Algerians will vote in a referendum on the new constitution on Nov. 1, with Tebboune and the country’s powerful army generals seeking a high turnout in order to turn a page on the protests.