The new Greek Prime Minister at the White House


Six months after coming to power, Kyriakos Mitsotakis will make his first visit on Tuesday as Greek Prime Minister to the White House, where he will meet with Donald Trump in a context of tensions with neighboring Turkey.

Athens is banking on this visit to attract American investors and boost its economy hit by the crisis of the last decade, a priority of the Greek Conservative government.

But the Mitsotakis-Trump meeting comes against the backdrop of tense relations with Ankara in matters of immigration, energy and territorial disputes.

“Greece and the United States are closer than ever,” Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in late December in an interview with the Greek weekly To Vima.

Athens is “a reliable ally” for the United States, he added, stressing that he expected this “to be confirmed not only in words but also in deeds”.

Washington traditionally maintains a delicate balance between Athens and Ankara, enemy brothers within NATO.

In 1996, former US President Bill Clinton had to intervene to avoid an armed conflict between the two countries around a disputed islet in the Aegean Sea.

But the current administration of Donald Trump has often opted for a controversial foreign policy by cultivating relationships even with leaders of countries whose choices had also been reprimanded by the State Department or the United States Congress.

One of these leaders is the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“It is obvious that the unpredictable policy of the American president creates an atmosphere which is not clear,” Spyridon Litsas, professor of international relations at the University of Thessaloniki, told AFP.

Greek-Turkish relations are once again put to the test after the signing in November of a controversial maritime and military agreement between Ankara and the Libyan government of union (GNA).

Delimiting the borders between these two countries, the agreement was immediately condemned by many countries including Cyprus, Egypt, and Greece.

Ankara is seeking to place its pawns in the region after the discovery of hydrocarbon deposits in recent years in the Mediterranean.

Donald Trump signed the EastMed Act in December, an initiative to facilitate energy cooperation between Greece, Israel and Cyprus.

Last week these three countries solemnly signed in Athens a cooperation agreement on an EastMed gas pipeline, supposed to transport Israeli gas to central Europe.

This is a work that will only be started in a few years, but the EastMed agreement is rather seen as “a response” to the Turkish-Libyan agreement, according to experts.

For the United States, Greece is “a crucial pillar for stability in the region,” said US Ambassador to Athens Geoffrey Pyatt at a conference in December.

Greece is currently “one of the most important partners in the south of Europe”, estimates a senior American official.

Greek-American relations gained new momentum after 2017 under the left-wing government of Alexis Tsipras, the official said.

Despite the traditional “anti-Americanism” of the left, Alexis Tsipras had shown pragmatism by putting an end to his country’s chronic dispute with its northern neighbor, North Macedonia, a policy supported by the West.


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