US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is paying a crucial visit today to Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, and Chania in the island of Crete, two places not picked by chance, Greek media reported. The visit comes amid tensions with Turkey over gas drillings in the Eastern Mediterranean and the upcoming “exploratory” talks the two countries due to start this week.
The places that Pompeo chose to visit are symbolic: Thessaloniki confirms the US’s interest in northern Greece in the context of their competition with Russia for the Balkan region. Russian oligarchs have been influential in Greece’s north and did not attempt to block the name-change deal with North Macedonia a couple of years ago.
In Crete, the US has a strong naval base which it is willing to upgrade. This also coincides with talks in Washington on the relocation of the US base in Turkey’s Incirlik. Ankara has warned that it could kick out the US from Incirlik nuclear base. Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a letter last week to 25 EU member states except Greece and Cyprus.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a letter last week to 25 EU member states except Greece and Cyprus, accusing Athens and Nicosia of causing the escalation of tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. He also backed a dialogue “without conditions” something that Athens has ruled out.
At an EU summit on 1 October the EU will hold a “strategic” discussion over Turkey but no decision on sanctions is expected. Cyprus has blocked sanctions against Belarus unless restrictive measures are also imposed on Ankara.
In an interview with Le Figaro, Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades said Nicosia was supportive of EU sanctions against Belarus but the EU should avoid double standards considering that Turkish vessels are still operating in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone. However, EURACTIV has learnt that a number of EU member states have been putting pressure on Cyprus to back down. (Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)