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.


Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

Updated 26 October 2020

Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

  • Majority of respondents to Arab News/YouGov survey consider neither candidate good for region
  • Findings show strong Arab support for Trump on Iran but not on Jerusalem embassy move

RIYADH: Nearly half the respondents in an Arab News/YouGov poll conducted in 18 Middle East and Africa (MENA) countries believe neither candidate in the upcoming US elections will necessarily be good for the region.
Of the rest, 40 percent said Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden would be better for the region while 12 percent said the same thing about incumbent President Donald Trump. But a key takeaway of the poll is that if Biden, who served as vice president to Barack Obama until 2017, wins the White House race, he would be well advised to shed the Obama administration baggage.
When asked about policies implemented in the Middle East under the Obama administration, the most popular response (53 percent) was that the Democratic president left the region worse off, with another 58 percent saying Biden should distance himself from Obama-era policies.
The study surveyed a sample of 3,097 respondents online to find out how people in the MENA region feel about the Nov. 3 US elections.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Containing Iran was found to be one of the top four issues that respondents wanted the next US president to focus on. Strong support for Trump both maintaining a war posture against Iran and imposing strict sanctions against the Tehran regime was noticed in Iraq (53 percent), Lebanon (38 percent) and Yemen (54 percent), three countries that have had intimate regional dealings with Iran.
President Trump’s 2017 decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem proved overwhelmingly unpopular, with 89 percent of Arabs opposing it. Surprisingly, in contrast to most other Arabs, Palestinian respondents inside the Palestinian Territories indicated a greater desire for the US to play a bigger role in mediation with Israel.
Arab opinion was largely split on the elimination this year of Iran’s regional “satrap” Gen. Qassem Soleimani, with the single largest proportion of respondents from Iraq (57 percent) and Lebanon (41 percent) seeing it as a positive move, as opposed to those in Syria and Qatar, where most respondents — respectively 57 percent and 62 percent — saw it as negative for the region.

Iran also figured in the list of perceived threats to US interests, although well behind white nationalism (32 percent) and China (22 percent). The other critical challenges for the US as viewed by Arabs were cybercrime, radical Islamic terrorism and climate change.
For a country that touts itself as an ally of the US, public attitudes in Qatar were found to be surprisingly out of sync with US objectives in the Middle East. The perception of radical Islamic terrorism, Iran and Islamist parties as the “three biggest threats facing the region” was much softer in Qatar compared with the region as a whole.
It came as little surprise that three quarters of respondents want the next US administration to make it easier for people from Arab countries to travel to the US. The figure for Lebanon, for instance, was even higher, 79 percent, underscoring concerns that many young Arabs are actively trying to leave the region.
Among other findings, Arabs remain overwhelmingly concerned about such challenges as failed government (66 percent) and the economic slowdown (43 percent).
Close to half of the respondents (44 percent) would like to see the next US president focus on empowering young people in the Arab region and solving the Arab-Israeli conflict (44 percent), followed by containing COVID-19 (37 percent), reining in Iran and Hezbollah (24 percent), quashing radical Islamic terrorism (24 percent) and tackling climate change (17 percent).