Press Availability With Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Dora Bakoyannis

Press Availability
James B. Steinberg
Deputy Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Athens, Greece
May 15, 2009

DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: Well, thank you very much Minister. It’s a real pleasure to be here and it’s a reflection of the increasingly deep relationship between Greece and the new Administration in Washington that I’m able to visit here and continue what has been a series of really remarkable exchanges in the relatively short time that we have been in office -- just about 120 days now. Not only our meetings, which began actually in Munich during the Security Conference and your wonderful visit to Washington but the meetings between the Prime Minister and our President, the visit of the Defense Minister and our continued discussions that we have in so many different places reflect a very deep and broad relationship between the two countries that range over almost all of the important issues facing the region and the world today. We did touch on all these broad ranging issues. I expressed appreciation to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister for the contributions that Greece is making in Afghanistan, which is such an important effort for us all, both as individual countries and through NATO. I admire the leadership that the Minister has shown as the Chair of the OSCE, and the important work that we continue to do there. It’s a critical institution for continuing the work of building a free and vibrant Europe, and it’s an important bridge between the United States and our friends here in Europe. We discussed a range of cooperation on so many of the different challenges ranging from piracy to non proliferation as well as the many regional issues that she identified here including the issues in the Balkans, the Aegean and Cyprus. I was also pleased that we had a chance to review our progress on the Visa Waiver Program and the strong desire on both sides, I think, to try to bring this to a conclusion as soon as possible. It’s an important bridge between our two peoples. When the Minister was in Washington, she gave a wonderful talk at the Brookings Institution and talked about bridges and the most important bridge that we have is this wonderful bilateral bridge that links Athens and Washington and our people. So, thank you for your generous hospitality, to you and the Prime Minister, and it’s great to be here.

QUESTION: At the renewed partnership between the two countries, what’s the importance for the United States of Greece’s strategic role in the region?

DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG: We see Greece as an enormously important partner because both geographically and politically and in terms of the values that Greece represents, Greece plays a pivotal role in so many questions that matter to the United States and to the world. The strong ties that Greece has to the Middle East and North Africa give us an opportunity to work on the many challenges that we are engaged with there with the visit of Middle East leaders coming to Washington. We see great opportunities to work with Greece to bring peace and stability to the Middle East. In the Balkans where we work together very constructively since last the time I served in the Office in the 1990’s Greece has provided great leadership and foresight in trying to bring economic opportunity, stability and democracy to the countries in the Balkans and remains a tremendously influential and constructive partner there. As I mentioned, we are working together through NATO in Afghanistan, which is an enormously important partnership for us, and working on some of the great global challenges including dealing with problems like non-proliferation. So, the pivotal role and the unique skills and positions that Greece brings to these many issues makes it a very important partner for the United States, and we look forward to deepening that partnership on all of these issues.