Greece is key NATO ally in a strategically crucial region, says U.S. ambassador

Greece is a key NATO ally in a strategically important region and relations with the United States in defence are strong, U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt said in an interview with public broadcaster ERT1 for the Armed Forces show “Me areti kai tolmi” (With virtue and bravery”), broadcast on Sunday. 
“Greece is a key NATO ally in a strategically crucial region. It is an important ally in the eastern Mediterranean at a time when America’s highest foreign policy priority is the military defeat of ISIS in Syria,” he said.
“It is also a key partner in our engagement with the countries in Northern Africa. It is a strong ally as we seek to work with the countries of the western Balkans, keeping them on the Euro-Atlantic trajectory and it is an essential partner in dealing with the challenges emerging from the Black Sea region. So Greece is right in the center of the picture.”
Asked about America’s expectations regarding bilateral relations in defence, Pyatt said Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos had an “excellent visit” to Washington DC where he had discussed regional issues with Secretary of Defence James Mattis. 
“We already have a strong alliance. Our interest now is to work together to build the kind of partnership that we need to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Some of the strategic issues in the neighborhood that I talked about, but also the challenge of terrorism which is a threat to all of our democracies,” he said. 
Concerning the importance the United States place on Souda Bay, in Crete, where NATO maintains a base, the ambassador described it as an “essential strategic asset”, very important to US naval forces operating in the eastern Mediterranean. 
“We’re grateful for that, but it’s also it a fantastic platform for strengthening the military ties between our forces. I’m very, very impressed by the kind of respectful and professional relationships between our air forces and our navies’ that work together in Souda Bay. We are very much looking forward to continuing to deepen and strengthen that relationship in a way that advances both countries’ security,” he said. 
Asked about NATO’s ongoing operations in the Aegean to minimize refugee flows, he said the United States strongly supports the work to reduce risk from migration, noting however that the long-term solution is peace in Syria. 
“We have been strong supporters of the NATO Standing Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2), which has helped reduce the risks from illegal migration into Greece. Of course the long-term solution to that problem is peace in Syria and that’s something were also working to achieve but in the meantime we are strong supporters of SNMG2,” he said.