Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the US will be basing a massive Navy ship in Souda Bay, a joint US-Greek military base on Greece’s island of Crete. The move could be seen as a symbolic show of support from the US for Greece in its maritime spat with Turkey.
Turkey and Greece are locked in a dispute over the resource-rich waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea. In August, Turkey sent a research vessel accompanied by warships to waters over which Greece claims exclusive rights to. Athens responded by sending warships of its own, which led to a tense standoff between the NATO allies.
The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams that is being deployed to Souda Bay is an expeditionary sea base ship. This is not the type of ship the US would deploy to intervene if a high-intensity conflict broke out between Ankara and Athens, but the timing of moving the vessel to Crete sends a clear signal to Turkey.
Speaking from Souda Bay, Pompeo reaffirmed Washington’s cooperation with Greece on Tuesday, and said relations between the two countries are “at an all-time high and getting stronger.” The diplomat also expressed his support for talks between Turkey and Greece to settle the maritime dispute but accused Pompeo of not being impartial and favoring Greece.