QUESTION:  Welcome to Crete, Mr. Secretary, and thank you for your time.  I know it’s been a very busy day for you.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It has.  It’s good to be with you.  Thanks for having me on the show.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, we all know this: that during this visit, you left out Athens.  You didn’t go to Athens.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  (Laughter.)  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Instead you went to Thessaloniki and Souda.  Why?  What do these places represent for the United States?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, these are two important places.  I had the privilege to go to Athens about a year ago when I traveled last to Greece.  It’s the first time I think a secretary of state’s ever been to Greece twice.  And I wanted to get a chance to go to other important parts of the country.

So Thessaloniki, we had a great set of conversations with the foreign minister, had a chance to go visit the Jewish museum, had a chance to meet with business leaders who are doing remarkable work in the energy sector there.  It’ll be a great opportunity not only for Greece but for the entire region to improve the diversity and the sources of energy available and will no longer be so dependent on Russia.

And here we’re in this beautiful place, Crete.  I wanted to come down here and visit the U.S. servicemembers who are serving here, and also see the good work that was being done between the U.S. military and the Greek military and the NATO work that’s done here too.  So it was important for me to get out and see some of those places, and it was a really great day – set of days, actually.

QUESTION:  Yes.  During your visit, you talked to a lot of people.  What kind of feedback did you get from them about the role of the United States in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  It was great feedback.  The relationship is in a fantastic place.  Prime Minister Mitsotakis, the entire Greek leadership, I think understands that they can be an important pillar of strength here in the Eastern Mediterranean.  It’s important to the United States.  And not only on the security front – something that we spend quite a bit of time on – but on the economic front too, enormous opportunities for U.S. investment here in Greece as well as for Greek companies to come and invest and be successful in the United States as well.

QUESTION:  Your visit to Greece coincides with a rather tense situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Under the circumstances, what kind of message do you think that your presence here sends to Greece and maybe to other countries in the region?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, we hope that the tensions here will decline.  We think anytime there is a dispute over issues like this or maritime issues in particular, the only way to resolve them is through diplomacy: sit down, have a conversation, find a result that is acceptable to each side.  International law exists.  There are ways to resolve this.  It’s not through heightening tension, it’s not through shows of force, it’s not through military threatening.

It’s through coming to the negotiating table, beginning to have these conversations, talk about things that make sure that you can make life better for the peoples of the region without conflict.  That’s the way the United States is going and – or advocating for.  It’s what we’ve spoken to the leaders of Greece and of Turkey about, not only myself but President Trump as well.

QUESTION:  That’s good, but you know we have a neighbor, Turkey, that is threatening Greece with war the last 25 years in case Greece exercises its right to expand territorial waters.  It also violates the continental shelf of Greece and also, as we speak, continues drilling and – in Cyprus.  How can we expect to have a substantial dialogue with a gun on the table?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  Well, dialogue is the solution.  It’s what we’ve advocated for since the beginning.  There will be an important European Council meeting.  I guess it’s Thursday of this week.  We hope that the Europeans will come to the same conclusion: to urge every nation to engage in these contested spaces where there’s disputes about what particular rights are.  They’re complicated issues oftentimes.  The right way to resolve them isn’t through force.  That’s what we believe, it’s what I think the Greek Government believes, and I’m confident the Turks will come to the same conclusion that this is the right answer.

QUESTION:  Okay.  For some time, we have the sense that the United States had pulled out from the area of Eastern Mediterranean.  Now things are changing.  What are your plans for the future?  What do you think the American imprint will be in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans in the near future, the next couple of years?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  So we’ve been really engaged.  We’ve been engaged on the diplomatic front.  We’ve done remarkable work with Kosovo, where we saw the decision that was made just a couple weeks ago.  We worked hard with North Macedonia to get those issues just right, and now we’re incredibly engaged all across the region, whether that’s here in Greece and the economic activity we have, and our force posture as well, providing support to NATO.  Here we are on NATO’s most southern flank ensuring that there’s peace and stability in the region.  That’s our objective.  It’s the rationale for our engagement.  It’s what we think serves the people of Greece well as well – also.

QUESTION:  Today, Mr. Secretary, we saw that there is an upgrade of the American presence in Souda.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, that’s great.

QUESTION:  That’s what I understood.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s great news.

QUESTION:  What is the meaning of this movement – move?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  Yeah.  So look, it’s great news for both countries.  I think it’s great news for the Eastern Mediterranean.  We made an announcement that we were going to home port a ship here.  It’s a very significant U.S. vessel.  It will mean more activity here, a few more jobs, I’m confident.

But most importantly, I think it demonstrates the American commitment to the facilities here in Crete and the importance of the Eastern Mediterranean not only to the United States but to all of us who want democracy and freedom of navigation.  We want to make sure that international law is enforced every place we go.

QUESTION:  And the last question, if I may:  What is your relationship with the Greek Americans, the Greek American community?  I know that you met the Archbishop Elpidophoros a few days ago.  What do they tell you?  What do they expect from the United States?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We have great relationships with Greek Americans.  They’re important pillars of so many communities, including in places like my home state of Kansas.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY POMPEO:  They’re great people.  They work hard.  They love family.  They are committed.  They’re often very faithful people.  It’s one of the reasons I wanted to meet with the senior Orthodox Church leaders.  It’s important that they understand too that the United States everywhere and always supports religious freedom.  We love Greek Americans, and we hope that they’ll continue to be successful, and we hope that they’ll continue to come here and to work and to invest and that you’ll see increased American foreign direct investment.  There are lots of opportunities here in Greece.  I’m confident you’ll see really good things in the weeks ahead – big significant investments from American companies.  I’m counting on it, and it’ll be great for both countries.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for your time.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  It’s been a pleasure.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It was wonderful to be with you.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

 

U.S. Department of State

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