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US, Greece plan to expand military cooperation in Mediterranean

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) arrives at the Marathi NATO Pier Facility in Souda Bay, Greece, August 18, 2020. (File photo)

The US and Greece will likely update a bilateral security pact this summer in a bid to facilitate expanded American military operations in the eastern Mediterranean region amid strained ties with fellow NATO ally Turkey, Greek defense chief has said.

Describing its military ties with the US as being at an “all-time high,” Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos added in remarks made during an online discussion at the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies that the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement between the two countries will likely be amended within the next two month and could "bring in more locations" where American forces can operate in Greece, Stars and Stripes military newspaper reported Saturday.

The expanding US military operations in Greece comes at a time of tense relations with Turkey, which has also been at odds with Athens in connection with an energy rights dispute in the eastern Mediterranean.

The development has also led to suggestions by security analysts that if relations between Ankara and Washington continue to deteriorate, military bases in Greece could eventually emerge as an operational alternative to Turkey's Incirlik Air Base.

Washington, however, has so far offered no indication that it intends to move its forces out of Turkey, where the US Army also operates a missile defense radar at a remote base in Kuerecik.

According to the report, Panagiotopoulos' remarks point to the latest signal that the Biden administration is seeking to boost its position in the eastern Mediterranean, where Russia has stepped up its military presence and where China is gaining influence as a financial stakeholder at various European ports.

Beijing is "very methodically, very patiently, very systematically — like everything China does — expanding its strategic posture in the region," the Greek military chief claimed.

The report also underlined that the US has gradually expanded its military operations at multiple bases in Greece within the past three years.

Most recently, it added, the US Navy “muscled up in the eastern Mediterranean” in October when it decided to homeport the USS Hershel "Woody" Williams at its Souda Bay base in Crete, a first for a US warship in at least 40 years.

Beyond Souda Bay, the US also operates MQ-9 Reaper drones in Larissa and at facilities in Alexandroupoli, where a port plays a key role for rotating American military service members in Europe.


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