During his five-day trip to Europe, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a two-day visit to Greece, a country which found itself embroiled in a rapidly escalating dispute over maritime boundaries and gas exploration with neighbouring Turkey. Secretary Pompeo called for a peaceful resolution of the disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean in a joint statement with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias and expressed US support for projects advancing regional energy security.
“The United States and Greece shared views on the Eastern Mediterranean and reaffirmed their belief that maritime delimitation issues should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law,” reads the joint statement issued following the meeting of Secretary Pompeo with Foreign Minister Denidas.
The historically tense relations between Greece and Turkey have deteriorated sharply in the past months over exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. The US welcomed Greece’s readiness to seek maritime agreements with its neighbours in the region.
Secretary Pompeo also endorsed some key projects affecting regional energy security such as the completion of the Greek section of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), that will bring natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe. He also and expressed the support of the US for the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria, the floating storage regasification unit project at Alexandroupoli, the privatisation of the Kavala underground gas storage, the Interconnection Greece–North Macedonia project, and other commercially viable projects, which could include the EastMed Gas Pipeline, a planned gas pipeline, directly connecting East Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.
Pompeo welcomed that the EastMed Gas Forum (formed by Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Jordan, and Palestine) was recently established as a regional organization. The forum brings together gas producers, consumers, and transit countries, and last but not least counters the ambitions of Ankara in the Mediterranean.
Greece and the United States also underlined the participation of ExxonMobil in partnership with Total and Hellenic Petroleum in offshore exploration blocks off the coast of Crete that represent 40,000 square kilometres of territory virtually unexplored. The geographical location of Greece and its proximity to the rest of Europe makes the country well placed to quickly commercialise any new discoveries.
Apart from traditional oil and gas business the US also aspires to tap into the emerging renewables segment. The joint statement notes the potential opportunities for US investment in the renewable energy sector, with the recently ratified Greek law, Modernisation of Environmental Legislation, that aims to standardise and simplify the licensing procedure for renewable energy power plants – particularly the procedure for obtaining a renewable energy production licence and environmental approval.
Secretary Pompeo also consulted the CEO of the Public Gas Corporation of Greece (DEPA) Konstantinos Xifaras and Minister of Environment and Energy Kostis Hatzidakis to discuss the geostrategic position of Greece in the Balkan region and the goal of diversifying energy sources and routes to Europe.
The US considers Greece a central pillar of Europe’s energy diversification, including growing supplies of American liquefied natural gas. As the US-supported floating storage regasification unit in Alexandroupoli comes online and new infrastructure projects offer the possibility to diversify Europe-bound natural gas routes and supplies, Greece’s role in regional energy diversification will further increase.
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