Pompeo calls for Greece-Turkey dialogue to ease tensions

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last October signed a defense agreement with Greek authorities allowing US forces a broader use of Greek military facilities. (AFP)
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Updated 29 September 2020

Pompeo calls for Greece-Turkey dialogue to ease tensions

  • Pompeo is on a two-day visit to Greece – his second in a year – aimed at easing tensions between Greece and Turkey

SOÚDA, Greece: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said his country strongly backed talks between Greece and Turkey to de-escalate tensions over energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
He also called for an end to fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces in the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh and a return to negotiations “as quickly as possible.”
Pompeo is on a two-day visit to Greece – his second in a year – aimed at easing tensions between Greece and Turkey.
The two countries have spent weeks at loggerheads after Ankara sent exploration vessels into disputed, potentially resource-rich waters in a crisis that roped in other European powers and raised concern about a wider escalation.
“We strongly support dialogue between NATO allies Greece and Turkey and encourage them to resume discussion of these issues as soon as possible,” he said after visiting the NATO base of Souda Bay on Crete with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
On Wednesday, Pompeo will fly to Rome for meetings with Italian government and Vatican officials. He will subsequently visit Croatia on Friday.
Pompeo and Mitsotakis had earlier spoken to Souda base commanders and boarded a US special forces CCM speedboat and a Greek frigate, prior to a sit-down meeting.
Washington has urged the NATO allies and neighbors, who have agreed to continue exploratory talks interrupted in 2016, to find “good solutions” to regional disputes exacerbated by energy exploration disagreements.
“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 Greek state agency ANA on Monday.
“It’s not just talking, we need to get to good solutions,” he added.
In a joint statement on Monday after talks in Thessaloniki in northern Greece, Pompeo and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias said rival claims to territory in the Mediterranean should be resolved “peacefully in accordance with international law.”
The 44-hectare Naval Support Activity base at Souda is the foremost US naval facility in the eastern Mediterranean.
Mitsotakis — who is hosting Pompeo at his family home in Crete — wants closer military ties with the United States.
Pompeo last October signed a defense agreement with Greek authorities allowing US forces a broader use of Greek military facilities.
Greece intends to further upgrade the naval facilities at Souda for its own navy operations, Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told parliament on Monday.
“Our country wants to make its presence felt in the eastern Mediterranean, and this will be done through the upgrade of Souda,” Panagiotopoulos said, according to ANA.
On Tuesday, Pompeo also called for an end to fighting between separatists in the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorny Karabakh and Azerbaijani forces.
“Both sides must stop the violence and work with the Minsk group ... to return to substantive negotiations as quickly as possible,” Pompeo said, referring to the so-called Minsk Group of mediators that includes France, Russia and the United States.
At least 95 people have been killed in the clashes that have been raging since the weekend, including 11 civilians, according to the latest available tallies.


Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

Updated 22 October 2020

Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

  • Hariri immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan
  • He has previously led three governments in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Three-time Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was named to the post for a fourth time Thursday and immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan.
Hariri said he would “form a cabinet of non politically aligned experts with the mission of economic, financial and administrative reforms contained in the French initiative roadmap.”
“I will work on forming a government quickly because time is running out and this is the only and last chance facing our country,” he added.
President Michel Aoun named Hariri to form a new cabinet to lift the country out of crisis after most parliamentary blocs backed his nomination.
Hariri, who has previously led three governments in Lebanon, stepped down almost a year ago under pressure from unprecedented protests against the political class.
“The president summoned... Saad Al-Deen Al-Hariri to task him with forming a government,” a spokesman for the presidency said.
Hariri was backed by a majority of 65 lawmakers, while 53 abstained.
Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades and still reeling from a devastating port blast that killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of Beirut in August.
Aoun warned Wednesday that the new prime minister, the third in a year, would have to spearhead reforms and battle corruption.
A relatively unknown diplomat, Mustapha Adib, had been nominated in late August following the resignation of his predecessor Hassan Diab’s government in the aftermath of the deadly port blast.
Adib had vowed to form a cabinet of experts, in line with conditions set by French President Emmanuel Macron to help rescue the corruption-ridden country from its worst ever economic crisis.
He faced resistance from some of the main parties however and threw in the towel nearly a month later, leaving Lebanon rudderless to face soaring poverty and the aftermath of its worst peacetime disaster.