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Cablegate: Scenesetter: Admiral Fitzgerald Visits Athens

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OO RUEHBW
DE RUEHTH #0469/01 0910747
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 310747Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RHMFISS/COMUSNAVEUR NAPLES IT IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 5109
RUEHBW/AMEMBASSY BELGRADE PRIORITY 0009
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 0992
RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA PRIORITY 2925
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 4357
RUEHSQ/AMEMBASSY SKOPJE PRIORITY 1164
RUEHSF/AMEMBASSY SOFIA PRIORITY 1596
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL PRIORITY 2013
RUEHTH/AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI PRIORITY 1842
RHMFISS/NAVSUPPACT SOUDA BAY GR PRIORITY
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1557
RUEHPS/USOFFICE PRISTINA PRIORITY 0358
RUEHTH/ODC ATHENS GR PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 ATHENS 000469

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/31/2018
TAGS: GR NATO ODC PARM PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER: ADMIRAL FITZGERALD VISITS ATHENS

Classified By: Ambassador Speckhard for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (SBU) Welcome to Athens. We look forward to hosting your
visit which comes at an important time, during the Bucharest
Summit, in the U.S.-Greece bilateral relationship. As you
know, Greece is an important NATO ally and strategic partner
of the U.S., as well as a member of the European Union.
Athens was transformed for the better by the 2004 Olympic
Games. Greece is less idiosyncratic politically than in the
past and more internationally involved. Relations with
Ankara, while not trouble-free, are better than in the
1990's, and Greece is one of the most steadfast advocates of
eventual full EU membership for Turkey.

-----------------
POLITICAL CLIMATE
-----------------

2. (SBU) National elections were held in September 2007 and
Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis of New Democracy, Greece's
center-right party, won another 4 years in government.
However, New Democracy won by a narrow margin and maintains a
razor thin majority of only one seat after losing 13 seats in
Parliament. Strong gains by the far right and left parties
as protest votes and hard line views on Macedonia have had an
impact on U.S. dialogue with the GoG on Macedonia's NATO
accession, and it has been even more difficult to persuade
Athens to increase its contribution to ISAF and other NATO
missions. The economy is performing well, aided by good
growth in the Balkan region and Greece's adoption of the Euro
in 2002.


3. (C) While the probability of any major military
confrontation is remote, much time and energy is spent in the
military stand-off with Turkey. Both sides are unable to
resist the frequent temptation to poke the other in the eye.
The Greeks parse very carefully any U.S. statements over
Cyprus or the Aegean, with an eye towards scoring points
against the other side. We encourage all senior visitors to
carefully word any reference to those two problems. The GoG
dearly wants recognition of the Greek role and contributions
to stability in the Balkans. In particular, the US military
to military relationship with Greece is the strongest
bilateral relationship we have and the Greek military is very
eager to maintain that strong relationship. Your visit will
reinforce the US commitment to that relationship.

--------
MEETINGS
--------

4. (SBU) You are scheduled to meet with three primary
military interlocutors; Deputy Defense Minister Tousoulos,
CHOD General Demitries Grapsas and the new Chief, Hellenic
Naval General Staff, Vice Admiral George Karamalikis.
Although military issues are important and will be the likely
focus of your meetings, five very important political issues
dominate Greek thinking and will also be addressed during
your meetings with General Grapsas and Deputy Minister
Tousollous. Each is addressed below.

---------
MACEDONIA
---------

5. (SBU) Following the breakup of Yugoslavia, Greece
objected to the Republic of Macedonia's name. Greeks
consider the unmodified use of "Macedonia" a usurpation of
their heritage and warn that it could encourage irredentism
towards Greece's northern province of the same name. In
1995, the U.S. helped broker an "Interim Accord" between

ATHENS 00000469 002 OF 004


Greece and Macedonia positing that Greece would not object to
the use of the name, "the Former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia" (FYROM) until the two countries could decide on a
mutually acceptable solution through UN-led negotiations.
The U.S. decision in November 2004 to recognize the Republic
of Macedonia by its constitutional name in bilateral
relations touched off a storm of controversy in Greece. We
have repeatedly urged both sides to lower the rhetoric and
engage in negotiations led by Matthew Nimetz under the
auspices of the United Nations. Positions have hardened as
the April 2008 NATO Summit approaches with the possibility of
a NATO invitation to Macedonia. Greece has made clear it
will veto the invitation absent a settlement of the name
issue, notwithstanding its commitment in the "Interim
Accord". We continue to urge both countries to work for a
mutually agreeable solution through the UN/Nimetz process.
If your Greek interlocutors raise this contentious issue,
they will make the point that future members must strengthen
security for all allies. For Greece, this cannot happen in
the case of Macedonia until it recognizes the need for good
neighborly relations and a recognition
in the name issue.


------
KOSOVO
------

6. (C) Greece has not recognized Kosovo's independence,
although we continue to encourage the Greeks to do so. In
the lead-up to Kosovo's independence, the Greeks consistently
expressed concerns about the prospect of Kosovo's
independence over Serbia's objections. Greek antipathy
largely stemmed from a knee-jerk affinity for the Serbian
position (based, among other things, on Orthodox solidarity),
but also from concerns of a possible negative precedent for
Cyprus and a possible reactionary response in Serbia that
could destabilize the region. However, the Greeks have not
resisted or further complicated Kosovo's independence. They
did not object to EU decision making on a Rule of Law
Mission, they have pledged substantial personnel to the EU
Rule of Law Mission, they have pledged to maintain their
force levels in KFOR, and they have provided staff for the
International Civilian Office (ICO). We continue to make the
point that Kosovo requires friends in the region who are
committed to its success, political stability, and economic
growth. The Greeks accept this point, but also assert that
it is important to maintain Serbia's European orientation;
Greece has been among the most active players in the EU in
engaging with Serbia post-Kosovo independence and in
encouraging Serbia's European and Euro-Atlantic perspective.
The Greeks maintain two mechanized infantry battalions in
Kosovo. These are subordinate to the 2nd Mechanized Infantry
Division in Edessa, one of their few 'high readiness units'.


-------------
ENERGY ISSUES
-------------

7. (SBU) Greece is seeking to play a prominent new role as
an energy pipeline hub to western Europe. We see the most
significant development as the Turkey-Greece-Italy
Interconnecter (TGI), which could be the first pipeline to
carry Caspian gas to Europe without going through Russia or
through Russian-controlled pipelines. It is an important
step in realizing our Southern Corridor strategy of
increasing energy diversity and security for Europe, and we
have actively encouraged Greece to contract for gas from
Azerbaijan. Greece has found itself in the cross hairs of an
intense effort by Russian Gazprom to block TGI through any of
a number of means, including proposing a competing pipeline

ATHENS 00000469 003 OF 004


called the Southstream. The Russian aim is to block the
provision of Azeri gas to Europe through Greece. Although
Greece relies on natural gas for less than 5 percent of its
energy needs (but plans to expand this amount significantly
under EU greenhouse gas guidelines), 80 percent comes from
Gazprom, making Greece reliant on continued Russian goodwill
in the short-medium term.

8. (SBU) Meanwhile, Greece, Bulgaria, and Russia have agreed
to construct the Burgas-Alexandroupolis Bosporus Oil Bypass
Pipeline (BAP) and have their national oil companies share
ownership. We support this initiative insofar as it is
commercially feasible. The Embassy and Washington agencies
have been actively promoting with Greece the need for
increased European energy security and diversification. It
will be useful for you to reinforce U.S. appreciation for
Greece's courage in standing up to Russian pressure on gas
issues and to build contacts with Central Asian suppliers.

--------------------
GREECE-TURKEY-CYPRUS
--------------------

9. (SBU) Against the sway of public opinion, the GOG
remains supportive of Turkey's EU accession hopes and
understands that a Turkey in the EU is in Greece's long-term
strategic interest. The Cyprus issue, however, is the
sticking point. The issue has been stymied since the Greek
Cypriots rejected the Annan plan to reunify the island in a
2004 referendum (Turkish-Cypriots accepted the Plan). While
Athens quietly backed the Annan Plan, the Greek Government
also believed it should stand by the Government of Cyprus and
the vote of theGreek Cypriots. The Greeks are cautiously
optimistic with the new opportunities aising from the
election of Cypriot Christofias and his stated intent of
working with the Turkish Cypriots to resolve the issue. They
remain suspicious that Turkey may not be as committed to
achieving a permanent settlement to the issue, and
particularly worry that the Turkish General Staff (TGS) may
stymie Turkish Cypriot efforts to make progress.

10. (SBU) Although Greece and Turkey still differ on issues
such as Aegean air/seaspace demarcation and Greece often
complains of alleged Turkish air incursions in the Aegean,
rapprochement remains a leitmotif of their bilateral
relations. During 2004, there were 500 mock dog fights
attributed to the demarcation disputes between the two
countries. In 2006, the number was reduced to 150 but
tensions again arose in May 2006 when a Turkish F-16 collided
in international airspace with a Greek F-16. Both
governments quickly brought the situation under control
successfully averting a potentially explosive situation.
Both sides adhere to the provisions of an informal CBM where
both suspend close aerial activity from June to September to
avoid potentially destabilizing incidents during peak tourist
season. Additionally, there is a great deal of reoccurring
dissension related to the issue of over-flights of
demilitarized Aegean islands during NATO exercises. This
controversial issue repeatedly emerges often forcing the
withdrawal of Greek support for NATO exercises in the region.


11. (S/NF) We understand the Greeks are preparing to submit
plans to NATO to request NATO support for an exercise over
the controversial island of Agios Efstratios. Should they
raise this issue during your visit, we recommend you simply
note our expectation that the Greeks follow the policy
guidance they have received from CC-AIR Izmir Commander Lt
Gen McFann exactly, that any deviation from these letters
would automatically result in the withdrawal of NATO support,
and that the question of whether NATO can support this
request will be evaluated once the plans are submitted. As

ATHENS 00000469 004 OF 004


you are aware, the Izmir policy letters specify that the
mission must be on the 3 month forecast; it must provide
Izmir specific flight details no later than 14 days prior to
the flight and the Air Tasking Order (ATO) must be shared
with the adjacent CAOC no later than 1 day prior to the flight


--------------------------------------------- -----
GREEK MILITARY CONTRIBUTIONS TO GWOT AND ELSEWHERE
--------------------------------------------- ------

12. (C) At every opportunity, and at every level, we
encourage the Greeks to contribute more to the war efforts in
Iraq and Afghanistan. Recently, the Ambassador met with
Minister of Defense Meimarakis and pressed him hard for a
Provincial Reconstruction Team in Dai Kundi, heavy lift
helicopters, more personnel in the OMLT in Jalalabad, and
removal of the caveats. He did not reject any of the
requests outright but has yet to respond. We encourage you
to repeat those same requests during your meetings with the
Deputy Minister and the CHOD. We recommend that you lead off
by acknowledging and expressing appreciation for ongoing
Greek support at Souda and for the MOD's commitment to
provide personnel to the U.S. embedded training team in
Kabul. Greece offered an OMLT with the provision that the
Kabul-only caveat could be met. NATO came back with two
options: a Greek-led OMLT in Jalalabad (which is outside the
60 kilometer caveat but within NATO's RC-Capital region) or
to provide staff to a U.S. embedded training team in Kabul.
Greece has opted for the latter, thus far.

13. (C) Although Greek contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan
are limited, Greek contributions to other important GWOT
initiatives are substantial and should not be overlooked.
When Turkey refused to allow the U.S. coalition to operate
from bases in their country during the last war, the USAF
moved 6 KC-135 tankers from Incirlik to Souda Bay Airfield
where the Greeks helped fuel them. For U.S. ground forces,
the Souda Bay port complex and the airfield allowed the 4th
Mechanized Infantry Division to quickly shift from the north
to the south in time for the start of the war. Greece allows
over 24,000 over-flights a year and participates in OAE/OEF,
KFOR, and UNIFIL. Although it is fine to thank them
privately during meetings, Greek public sentiment is strongly
anti-war, so the help Greece gives us at Souda Bay and with
frequent transshipments of ammunition are subjects they would
like to keep private avoiding any public acknowledgments.

14. (C) A very important part of our engagement with Greece
is our robust ship visit plan. The Hellenic National Defense
General Staff (HNDGS), the Hellenic Coast Guard and the
Hellenic National Police have been very supportive opening 12
additional ports for ship visits from 6th Fleet vessels. The
security surveys for these ports are finished and new ports
are under consideration. Last year, 73 US ships visited 10
different Greek ports outside Souda Bay and this year, 14
ships have visited 5 different ports. The ongoing Lebanon
crisis has necessitated several recent cancellations but once
that situation changes, we hope to see an increase in visits.
Additionally, we look forward to hosting a carrier visit
this year.
SPECKHARD

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