QUESTION:  Okay.  So welcome to Greece, and welcome to Thessaloniki.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s great to be here.  Thanks for having me with you today.

QUESTION:  Thank you for taking the time for this interview.  So it’s your – the first time ever an American secretary of state is visiting Thessaloniki.  Is this choice of yours signifying increased political interest in northern Greece?  And if so, for which reasons?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, we have a great partner here in Greece, and thought it was very important to get to this part of Greece on this particular trip because of all the great things that are happening up here in this part of the country.  Our consulate here now is working full time.  We’ve done really remarkable diplomatic work with North Macedonia that’s led to real opportunities.  And so we’re excited about the things that are happening here – good news on the energy front, good news on the ports – all the kind of things that can make life better for the people of Thessaloniki and the region, and increase the partner – the partnership between the United States and Greece as well.

QUESTION:  There are major American companies that are invested here, like Pfizer and Cisco.  Are we going to expect more American investments in the region, and do you see Thessaloniki as an emerging technology hub?  And if so, for – under which conditions?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, I expect that it will be.  American businesses make decisions on their own; we don’t operate like other countries do.  These aren’t state-sponsored enterprises that come pillage and destroy your economy.  These are American companies who come and hire Greek citizens and educate and train and build up good, reliable partners in communities like this.  I have every expectation that you’ll see more investment, more technology investment.  What Cisco and Pfizer have done are really good examples of how American companies can come here and partner with Greek small businesses, and really good things for the region.

I anticipate we’ll see more.  I don’t want to get ahead of any final decisions, but I think the people of this region can fully expect if they do the right things, if they are welcoming, you’ll see more American investment here, which would be great for each of our two countries.

QUESTION:  So – okay, how important is the region of northern Greece for Europe’s energy diversification, and is the American increased interest in Alexandroupoli limited to energy, or is it of general geostrategic importance?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  No, it’s not – certainly just not energy.  There’s real geostrategic importance to it.  But your point about the energy I think is right.  President Trump’s policy has been for all of Europe to increase its capacity to have a diversified set of energy sources, not to be dependent on Russia and Gazprom.  This isn’t good, it’s not safe, it’s not secure, it creates risk, and frankly it costs people more money to heat their homes and to use other methods of energy.  So what we have striven to do – you can see with our opposition to Nordstream 2, and the flipside here, our investments and our support of efforts all throughout – whether it’s the IGB or the capacity of LNG to be moved throughout the region and the interconnectivity in the region of these various energy sources, not only for gas, but for petroleum products too, and oil.

We hope that these will continue; we expect that they will.  I had great meetings this morning with senior officials from Greece, from North Macedonia, each of whom said this is night and day.  The American participation here is truly unique, truly exceptional, and I think it’ll mean really good things: more diversified energy sources, cheaper energy, and being performed alongside reliable partners like companies from the United States.

QUESTION:  And how do you assess the situation in the Western Balkans in general?  And could Greece, as a member of NATO and the EU, play a vital role?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Not only could they, they must.  They need to be a pivotal partner for the United States and for Europe in the Western Balkans.  We’ve done a lot of work in this region; I’ve spent a lot of time here.  My whole team has.  There’s still obviously more to do.  But we think good things are in front of us.  We watch it turn away from the negative influence, things that have really proven oppressive for the people of those regions.  And so we see decrease in conflict, more opportunity, and we see Greece as a central player in making sure that this progress that’s been made to date continues.

QUESTION:  And last but not least, how do you evaluate the resumption of the exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey?  Could they lead to better relations between Ankara and Athens?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I hope so; I truly do.  We’ve said all along the way conflict is resolved is not through shows of force, it’s not through demonstrations of power, it’s through dialogue.  It’s through international systems, agreement, conversations, dialogue.  That’s how these maritime disputes ought to be resolved.  We’ve watched the Greeks move in that direction trying to achieve that.  We hope the Turkish Government will see it the same way, and 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.  That’s – it’s not just talking; we need to get to good solutions.  We need to resolve these conflicts in a way that’s reflective of the fundamental rights of the citizens of Greece, as well as people all across the world.

QUESTION:  Let’s hope so.  Thank you very much for this interview, sir.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you very much.

QUESTION:  We appreciate it.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Wonderful to be with you.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

 

U.S. Department of State

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