DIKTIO – Network for Reform in Greece and Europe organized an event on «Prerequisites for Peace and Stability in Eastern Mediterranean», on Tuesday, February 18, 2020. The opening remarks of DIKTIO’s president Anna Diamantopoulou was followed by the keynote speaches of three Ambassadors and the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece:
H.E. Geoffrey Pyatt, Ambassador of the United States of America to Greece
H.E. Yossi Amrani, Ambassador of the State of Israel to Greece
H.E. Burak Ozugergin, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Greece
Kyriakos Loukakis, General Director, A General Directorate for Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
See and listen the 3 ambassadors’ speeches (in English) from min. -2:02:12 to -1:09:45
Τhe first part of the event was followed by a panel discussion with the participation of:
ADM (ret) Evangelos Apostolakis, Former Minister of National Defense;
Honorary Chief, Hellenic National Defence General Staff
Amb. Pavlos Apostolidis, Former Director, National Intelligence Service
Anna Diamantopoulou, President, DIKTIO
Prof. Dimitris Keridis, Member of Parliament, ND
Pavlos Tsimas, Journalist, SKAI TV
Read below the remarks of the 3 ambassandors (USA, Turkey and Israel) spechees:
Ambassador Pyatt’s Remarks at DIKTIO Panel on “Prerequisites for Peace and Stability in the Eastern Mediterranean”
Thank you very much. Καλησπέρα σας. I will start by saying, Anna, thank you very much for the invitation. I want to thank the entire DIKTIO network for organizing this event and inviting me to be with you for what I think is a very important conversation. I also want to say what an honor it is for me to be here with my colleagues, Ambassador Özügergin and Ambassador Amrani. I think it’s a very important signal that the three of us are up here and also that none of us can say no to Anna, so I also want to congratulate DIKTIO for your new International Council, which is a really impressive group of personalities from across Europe, and I am quite confident that this new body is going to help further encourage the kind of sophisticated conversation that we really need today about Europe, the future of Europe, but also about the future of our transatlantic relationship.
Anna and I were together in Washington, DC in November for the Delphi DC conference, which focused heavily on the question of U.S. interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was clear there that Washington is beginning to think in a more sophisticated and systematic way about the Eastern Mediterranean and the challenges and opportunities that it presents. And certainly one of the main points of agreement between our two governments, Greece and the United States, during Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ fantastically successful visit to Washington last month was that great power competition has returned to the Eastern Mediterranean in a big way, and that the U.S. presence in this region remains essential. I look forward very much to hearing what Ambassador Loukakis has to say this evening, but I know that this is an issue where the Greek Foreign Ministry and the U.S. government are powerfully in agreement.
So the message that I want to share with you this evening, and with my colleagues from Israel and Turkey, is that all of our nations need to work together closely to ensure peace and stability in this strategically important region.
I spent some time this weekend watching the livestream, the debate at the annual Munich Security Conference, where a very large U.S. delegation, led by Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper, emphasized the critical challenges we perceive today from Russia and China, two powerful global actors who have far different interests from the United States and which clearly do not share the values that we hold in common and both of which have sought to achieve new footholds in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
Russia today, the United States believes, is running in the Eastern Mediterranean the same playbook I saw up close and personal in my time in Ukraine, seeking to destabilize the Balkans and the Black Sea and fueling the civil war in Syria and spiking violence in Libya. The migration and refugee crisis also, of course, continues to send shock waves through this region.
And major energy developments, including progress on the IGB pipeline with Bulgaria, the Floating Regassification Unit in Alexandroupoli, as well as the completion of the TAP pipeline from Azerbaijan through Turkey to Greece, Albania and Italy, and continued discussions on the EastMed pipeline, are literally redrawing the energy map of Europe and increasing Greece’s importance as a regional energy hub, which is helping dramatically to strengthen the energy security and independence of our European allies.
For all of these reasons, the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean have returned to the forefront of American strategic thinking.
Washington views Greece as a steadfast and reliable partner in our efforts to help transform the Eastern Mediterranean and the wider region into a zone of cooperation and shared prosperity, beginning with constructive engagement between Greece and its neighbors on regional security and energy issues.
During my time as Ambassador, U.S.-Greece bilateral military cooperation has expanded substantially, and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge here this evening the presence of Admiral and Minister Apostolakis, who played such an important role in helping us to achieve this progress.
Greece has now emerged from the decade-long financial crisis as a pillar of stability and a source of solutions to problems in this region. Greece has consistently exceeded NATO’s 2% of GDP defense spending benchmark, and we welcomed Parliament’s ratification of the updated Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement at the end of January. My boss, Secretary of State Pompeo, aptly described the agreement as “a strategic touchstone in our defense relationship.”
The updated MDCA enables us to expand our bilateral activities at Larissa, Stefanovikio, and Alexandroupoli, and to sustain increased activity at Souda Air and Naval Bases in coordination with NSA Souda Bay, and in support of our shared NATO goals. It also allows the United States to use Congress-appropriated funds to develop mutually beneficial infrastructure projects at all these locations.
Defense Minister Panagiatopoulos emphasized in Parliament that our MDCA is a tool which enhances the U.S.-Greece defense relationship to address the challenges of tomorrow. And I would agree, having worked on these issues in very similar terms with two successive Greek governments.
We also welcome the news that Greece and Turkey this week have resumed talks on military confidence building measures, which can help to improve communications and reduce tensions in the Aegean and throughout the region.
As I’ve said on many occasions, Greece and the United States agree on the importance of continuing to work together with Turkey as a NATO Ally. I commend Greece’s leadership for its calm and mature approach in looking for the best way forward.
Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic are thinking deeply about how we can better build peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean. So it’s not surprising that President Trump at the end of 2019 signed into law the East Med Act, and two days into the new year, our democratic friends Greece, Cyprus, and Israel signed the East Med Pipeline Accord.
The East Med Act, sponsored by Senators Rubio and Menendez and passed with strong bipartisan support in the United States, directs our government to step up engagement in the Eastern Mediterranean and to view the East Med as a coherent strategic space. It specifically reinforces American support of the 3+1 collaboration with Greece, Israel, and Cyprus that Secretary Pompeo launched in Jerusalem in March 2019, as Ambassador Amrani knows well.
The deepening energy and regional cooperation among our four democratic nations has already led to active political and economic partnerships. Last August, under Minister Hatzidakis’ leadership and with the participation of State Departarment Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources Frank Fannon, our nations formed working groups to increase cooperation on infrastructure projects, renewable energy, energy storage, cybersecurity, and emergency preparedness and environmental protection in the upstream sector. Assistant Secretary Fannon was back in the region this month to kick off the first 3+1 working group discussion in Nicosia together with Minister Lakkotrypis.
As Assistant Secretary Fannon clearly stated, our goal is to show all the countries in the region how they can benefit from cooperation. That’s why, right after he travelled to Cyprus, Assistant Secretary Fannon traveled to Turkey, and in an interview with Kathimerini, Assistant Secretary Fannon explained how, due to its geographic position, Turkey can become an energy crossroads, and everyone can benefit from that potential. But if tensions continue to escalate, if we continue to see an “us against them” approach or who gets to take the largest piece of the pie, no one will emerge victorious.
The more inclusive the conversation is, the better it will be from the perspective of the United States. That’s why we support inviting Turkey to participate in the East Med Gas Forum, which aims to create a regional gas market among Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Italy, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority.
And just as the European Coal and Steel Community facilitated energy cooperation after World War II, we believe these cooperative frameworks in the Eastern Mediterranean can both have a stabilizing effect and grow into something much larger.
In recent years, Greece has become a regional hub and integrator for a number of major projects. The Alexandroupoli FSRU, the IGB, TAP, the EastMed pipeline, all underwrite political and economic stability. These significant energy investments diversify sources and routes, in contrast to projects like the second stream of TurkStream and Nord Stream 2, which only deepen dependence on Russian gas and the political vulnerability that brings. As TAP and the IGB come online, and as the East Med pipeline and Alexandroupoli FSRU move ahead, Greece will be positioned to help us further break the Gazprom monopoly on the Balkan energy market.
In his letter to Prime Minister Mitsotakis last month, Secretary Pompeo expressed the U.S. commitment to Greece’s prosperity, security, and democracy. The warmth of that letter is emblematic of the tremendous appreciation felt in Washington, from Republicans and Democrats, for Greece’s leadership role in promoting cooperation and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Against the background of geopolitical competition in the Eastern Mediterranean, the United States is committed to collaborating with Greece more than ever before as strategic and economic partners, and I greatly appreciate the role that DIKTIO and others in the Greek academic community are playing to help us fulfill that vision.
Ευχαριστώ πολύ, and I look forward to hearing the conversation.
Prerequisites for Peace and Stability in Eastern Mediterranean (Remarks by Ambassador Ozugergin,
– The Eastern Mediterranean has always been a complicated basin. It has seen great civilizations around its shores since antiquity. It is hard to imagine global history without mentioning the Mediterranean in general, and the eastern part in particular. Both cooperation and cohabitation on the one hand, and competition and conflict on the other, have always been part of daily life in this corner of the world.
– Lately, though, the region is covered with more storm clouds than usual. I think over the years a number of developments have conspired to make it so. In no particular order of significance or timeline, please consider the following as potential contributors to the current picture in the East Med region:
– Discoveries of energy resources. Increasing presence of Russia in the maritime domain as well as the territory of Syria. Palestinian-Israeli conflict dragging on with no significant and universal hope for a resolution in sight. Cyprus talks having collapsed. New superpower rivalry after Crimea. Failure of shaping a clear post-Qaddafi era in Libya. US deteriorating relationship with Iran. Some Gulf States’ hostile relationship with Iran. Turkey’s EU bid faltering. Lebanon increasingly in trouble. Afghanistan still not out of trouble. China as a new trading state on European and African doorsteps. US now one of the world’s largest energy exporters. Mostly unfulfilled Arab Spring aspirations. US involvement in Iraq with no discernible post-Saddam plan. Mass waves of immigration. New acronyms for old terror groups. EU still trying to find footing after a decade of economic crisis management, and now Brexit…
– When the Arab Spring in various parts of the Middle East turned sour, this situation predictably brought instability to our region. The relative declining power of some states, either because of fierce resistance to change by civilian rulers, or the return of military tutelage systems or the downright outbreak of violent civil wars, first encouraged the rise of radical terrorist groups, then brought intervention by external and/or regional powers. The spillover effects of all this is still what we all feel in Eastern Mediterranean geopolitics and even beyond.
– Did you know that the Mediterranean Sea is now hosting navies of about 44 different countries? This new, alarming militarization of the region not only involves obviously the navies of various coastal states, but also includes Anti Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capacities of external powers.
– Now any one or a combination of a few of these developments or facts may not have produced such perplexing reality around the Mediterranean basin on their own. But all of them at once? Who knows?
– So whatever the reason, here we have an unsettled region. We as Turkey border it with nearly 2000 km of coastline and a lot of historical and cultural ties that go with it.
– The theme of this evening’s gathering is “What are the prerequisites of Regional Stability and Peace in the East Med.” We do often ask that question ourselves back home. This is what I can offer you this evening, by way of our answers to that question.
– Firstly, we are deeply interested in seeing the region reemerging as the center of trade, politics, and culture as it used to be in the past.
– We do not thrive in chaos and disorder and anarchy. We do prosper in stability. So we want to project it.
– That’s why we use diplomatic, military, economic and development tools through over-the-horizon engagement to try to calm choppy waters before trouble reaches us.
– That’s why we are all the way in Afghanistan trying to make it a safer place for its inhabitants. That’s why we are in Africa, digging wells and building schools and hospitals. That’s why we cannot be simple spectators to what happens across our borders. That’s why we provide material care for another four million people right outside of our borders on top of the four million already inside.
– This would also explain our sincere efforts to make the Geneva Process and the Berlin Process successes in their own right. Because we actively promote inclusive political solutions in Syria and Libya.
– So it is not simply about oil or gas. It is about producing security-primarily human security of course, but also military security, economic security, and environmental security. In any case, we always try to make sure that we end up having a wide range of policy choices before us so that we are not stuck between a bad and worse decision.
– We are after all, a trading and traveling state.
– Secondly, terrorism must be stamped out in all its forms and manifestations and we must do that together. We will not allow terror groups to hurt our citizens or our economic wellbeing. We expect no ands ifs or buts from our allies. There is no excuse or explanation or justification for terrorism.
– We will not allow separatist agendas in or around our country either. The people of Iraq, Syria and Libya deserve as much from us.
– We have been and will continue to be a loyal NATO ally. It so happens that today is the 68th anniversary of our becoming an ally. The whole point of being a part of an alliance is to know that your allies have your back. That’s what we did after 9/11 without so much as blinking an eye when we unanimously invoked article 5 even before the US requested it.
– Thirdly, we are deeply committed to having shipping lanes and maritime zones around us clear – not only for us, but also for third parties and the rest of the world. Same goes for air corridors. We want them open. We will not take kindly to the nationalization or appropriation of the high seas or international skies around us.
– And lastly, we are determined to make sure that there is a fair, legal and legitimate distribution of natural resources in the region’s seas, in accordance with international law. We will continue resisting backroom deals or dishonest behavior or fait-accomplis.
– Last word on hydrocarbons. Some policy-makers and analysts have so far been proven wrong in their expectation, when gas was found in the East Med in the opening years of the millennium, that such discoveries would serve as a motivation for furthering peace and cooperation in the solving of various problems such as the Cyprus issue and even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not happening. If anything, as in the case of Cyprus, things just got a whole lot worse.
– The reason for that is simple. In a maritime zone that has not been delimited in accordance with international law, any discovery does not make a pie suddenly appear from the sky. It ironically just raises the real possibility that you might go home empty handed. Absent the necessary collaboration and cooperation mechanisms, such a state of affairs is liable to even trigger a race to the bottom. That is the last kind of situation that we need in the East Med. We need more responsible and cooperative behavior to replace the recklessness and stubbornness that seems to be the norm lately around the Eastern Mediterranean.
– “By the way, I would like to congratulate the organizers of this event for their accomplishment in bringing together representatives of three non-parties to UNCLOS. Not an easy task indeed. So I feel a part of some other kind of 3+1 grouping tonight.”
– To end, the most rational way to proceed then, in my opinion, would be to engage on building inclusive collaborative mechanisms among all legitimate stakeholders. Accordingly, we should concentrate on conflict prevention in the Mediterranean basin rather than promoting speculative pipelines like the East Med project that pretty much makes no commercial sense. Nobody likes a lose-lose deal.
Summary: Address of the Ambassador of Israel, Mr. Yossi Armani, at an event of the Diktio Network for Reform in Greece and Europe on: “Prerequisites for Peace and Stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
The Ambassador of Israel to Greece, Mr. Yossi Amrani, was one of the keynote speakers at an event of the Diktio Network for Reform in Greece and Europe on: “Prerequisites for Peace and Stability in the Eastern Mediterranean” held in Athens on 18 February 2020 under the auspices of the think tank’s President, Mrs. Anna Diamantopoulou.
In his introduction, Ambassador Amrani first referred to the notion of peace, providing the example of Israel and the Palestinians, noting that a type of coexistence has been achieved between the two nations throughout the years. He nevertheless stressed that a resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict should be found that satisfies both the aspirations of the Palestinians, while simultaneously ensuring Israel’s right to exist and its vital security interests.
The Ambassador stressed that Israel became the homeland of the Jewish people after their history of trial and tribulation. The nation-building of the state began with great difficulty in the late period of the Ottoman Empire.
After 70 years, Israel has become a factor of stability in the Middle East through its strength. It is a stable democratic state with a cohesive society and vibrant economy.
Mr. Amrani noted that Israel’s stabilizing role is recognized by other states in the region. Israel was at the forefront of opposing the faulty JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran but was not alone as several key Arab states also opposed it.
The Israeli Ambassador then pointed to the prerequisites for peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean including:
- Domestic stability and the avoidance of foreign intervention in the internal affairs of countries in the region. The Ambassador implied the region is really not more stable after the Arab Spring and foreign interventions in Iraq and Libya.
- Widespread economic prosperity and sharing the benefits of wealth in the region. Social and economic discrepancies, growing deprivation in an era of transparency about conditions in the first and third worlds are fertile ground for terror and instability. Countries must invest in their neighbors. Israel is providing natural gas to Jordan and Egypt and more can happen. It is sharing water with Jordan and desalination technologies can be used for the benefit of neighbors in the context of the peace environment.
- Keeping religion out of politics. Curbing the influence of religion is necessary, keeping it in places of worship and not in the political sphere.
- Balanced international/multilateral fora without an endemic bias as in the case of Israel. There is a pattern of anti-Israeli votes in the EU and UN. The EU immediately adopted a negative stance towards the Trump Peace Plan. There is a disproportionate number of negative conclusions in the EU’s Foreign Affairs Councils targeting Israel, while ignoring other parts of the world. Israel is being singled out. The emerging partnership between Israel and Greece could allow Athens to play a more prominent role. Israel would like to see Greece play an active role in the EU and international fora.
- World order. A US withdrawal from global and Middle East developments is dangerous. The United States should maintain a role as an honest broker in the region and not seek to lead from behind the scenes or delegate power to third parties. No state will accept the US delegating the role of a power broker to a third country in the region.
- Regional cooperation. There is the hope that energy will become a catalyst for regional cooperation and that gas reserves in Israel and Egypt will find their way to Europe in order to generate revenues and not remain in the sea. The East Mediterranean Gas Forum is an example of regional cooperation that also can upgrade Greece’s foreign policy. Greece has made inroads in South East Europe. It also maintains historic good ties with the Arab World. Israel has extensive relations with Arab countries, not diplomatic ties but in the critical fields of business, energy and strategic intelligence. Regional cooperation should not be limited to the EMGF and energy, but also include other fields like combating natural disasters, environmental protection, etc. Cooperation should be inclusive. It does not start with gas and it does not necessarily end in NATO.
- Respect for each other’s cultures and traditions: There should be respect for cultures in the region without being condescending. As an Israeli Jew of Iraqi and Moroccan origin, Ambassador Amrani said he often finds himself defending the culture of the Arabs against the patronizing views of others, particularly in the West.
- Understanding the limitations of history. It should not be used as a tool for the aspirations of certain countries to achieve hegemonic influence in the region. History should remain in history books. Italy is not trying to revive the Roman Empire.
- Regional bilateral conflict resolution and management. Resolutions to regional conflicts should originate in the region. Solutions should be found with regional support. The peace agreements between Israel-Egypt, Israel-Jordan originated in the region and were then achieved with US and international support. Although no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been achieved, the same model applies to it and other regional clashes. Israel is not the source of the multiple conflicts in the area.
- Inclusiveness, inclusiveness, inclusiveness. It should not be just a slogan but a commitment.