Cablegate: 99th U.S.-Greek Joint Commission: Meeting Summary

DE RUEHTH #1531/01 2121327
O 311327Z JUL 07




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: On July 23, the 99th meeting of
the U.S.-Greek Joint Commission dealing with bilateral
political-military issues, particularly the relationship
between Souda Bay Naval Support Activity (NSA) and the
Government of Greece, was held at Souda Bay NSA on the island
of Crete. Issues discussed at the JC included: problems
associated with black fuel dye in Greek marine gas oil; the
status of the U.S.-Greece ACSA agreement; Greek slowness to
sign end-use agreements pertaining to peacekeeping operations
and pooled weapons transfers (&Blanket Assurances8);
land-lease issues concerning a periphery extension at Souda
Bay NSA; military-to-military agreements; Greece's failure to
sign a bilateral PSI shipboarding agreement; and various
small construction projects at Souda Bay NSA. COMMENT: As at
the 98th JC (reftel), the atmosphere was cordial and
fruitful. Success at the 98th JC and in the interim period
has meant, however, that the remaining outstanding issues
represent some of the most intractable problems. We
nevertheless remain impressed with Greek JC co-chairman
Vassilokonstandakis' enthusiasm and can-do attitude. END

2. (SBU) Charge d,Affaires a.i. Thomas Countryman (CDA), the
U.S. Joint Commission co-chairman, began by noting that the
JC created a good environment in which solutions are found
not only during the JC meetings but also between meetings.
He cited the extension of the MDCA, the successful resolution
of the 302 Form issue, and the approval of the Marathi fuel
pipeline as examples of positive results. MFA North America
Directorate acting director and Greek JC co-chairman Grigoris
Vassilokonstandakis thanked the U.S. side and agreed with the
CDA on the value of the JC and the importance of the
accomplishments between meetings. Both sides introduced the
members of their delegation then addressed specific agenda


3. (SBU) Embassy became aware in Sept 2005 that U.S. Military
Sealift Command (MSC) vessels were refusing to take delivery
of Marine Gas Oil (MGO) at Souda Bay because of the color of
the fuel. USMC vessels require fuel to meet a &clear and
bright8 standard so that it can be inspected visually for
contaminants. Greece, however, had begun requiring MGO to be
dyed black to mark it as tax-free/for-export-only. CDA cited
figures showing Greek petroleum providers losing
approximately 300 million USD in sales annually, the Greek
Government losing taxes, and the Prefecture of Hania losing
revenue from canceled ship visits. He noted that we would
like to solve the problem either by going to the original
clear-color standard or finding another solution.

4. (SBU) The Greek co-chairman said the Ministry of Economics
could probably do something to speed things up, but he
thought they still needed about two to three months for a
ministerial decision. Nevertheless, he said the GOG was very
close to a solution and that the MFA was in constant contact
with all pertinent officials. He advised the CDA to raise
the issue in the latter,s upcoming meeting with Finance
Minister Petros Doukas and to note to Doukas that no other
European country dyes its fuel black. CDA agreed to raise
the issue with Doukas. On July 26, CDA also discussed the
issue with the new chief of the Greek Customs Service, who
said he was aware of the issue and was working on a solution


5. (SBU) The Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA)
is a bilateral agreement between Greece and the U.S. that
allows their respective militaries to provide mutual
logistical support. The original ACSA was signed in 1996 and
amended by a supplemental agreement in 2005. The original
ACSA was not ratified by the Greek Parliament. The amendment
contained a provision stating that it would not be effective
until Greece verified by diplomatic note that its internal
coordination procedures had been completed. When the U.S.
side asked Greece for the diplomatic note at the 98th JC, the
Greek co-chairman replied that the amendment had to be

ATHENS 00001531 002 OF 004

ratified by parliament and that it would be best if the U.S.
submitted a whole new agreement to replace the original and
the amendment.

6. (SBU) ODC legal advisor LTC May noted that EUCOM was
willing to negotiate a new agreement to replace the original
agreement and its amendment. COL Assimakis agreed and said
his staff was ready to receive a draft text of the
replacement agreement and meet with EUCOM personnel to
negotiate the final text. CDA said he hoped for a fast
negotiation since this agreement saved a lot of money for the
respective militaries. The Greek co-chairman asked the U.S.
side to send the new draft agreement with a dip note to him
and he would forward it to the HNDGS. Both sides agreed that
the old agreement was valid until a new one was executed.


7. (SBU) Embassy Athens has sought for over a year to secure
from the GOG a 505 end-use agreement covering peace-keeping
operations. Since last fall, we have also sought to conclude
a blanket assurances end-use agreement that would allow
Greece to participate in an equipment-sharing program with
about 25 other countries. Greece thus far has not signed the
agreements. Vassilokonstantakis has told us in the past that
the MFA favored the agreements, and while the MOD was likely
not in principle opposed, he was unable to locate anyone
within MOD willing to take responsibility to sign the

8. (SBU) The Greek co-chairman and MFA legal advisor Fani
Livada argued that the 505 and Blanket Assurances agreements
were not proper subjects for discussion at a Joint Commission
meeting and should probably be discussed at the HLCC. The
U.S. side replied that the 505 and Blanket Assurance
agreements were appropriate topics for the Joint Commission
because there are general provisions in the MDCA that state
the U.S. would assist in the modernization of the Greek
Military. The Greek co-chairman said unofficially that the
505 agreement was close to resolution and would probably be
signed before the next JC meeting. He noted, however, that
the Blanket Assurances agreement would take more time. The
U.S. side offered help in overcoming any obstacles.


9. (SBU) At the September 2001 JC, the U.S. formally
requested Greece to increase the boundaries of NSA Souda Bay
to allow a widening of the perimeter fencing for
force-protection purposes. Greece agreed to the land
transfer, but it has taken several years to complete because
of the number of agencies and processes involved. One of the
last (and hardest) steps of the process (expropriation) was
completed by the February 2007 Joint Commission. We were
informed then that there would be a public-comment period
concerning the transfer but things would move quickly

10. (SBU) At the 99th JC, the Greek side said it had good
news in that none of the landowners had objections about the
rate of compensation for their land. The only problem was
that 40 percent of the landowners claimed their land was
larger than the GoG estimated and that they were entitled to
greater compensation. Greece, therefore, needed to use the
topographical service (Greek equivalent of surveyors) to get
more precise measurements of the land and verify landowner
claims. The Greek co-chairman estimated the measurement
process would take two months after which the landowners
would be invited to receive payment. The HAF representative
said unofficially that if the amount of the land were larger
than anticipated, the HAF would pay the necessary additional
compensation to the landowners to allow for speedy resolution
of this long-standing issue.


11. (SBU) To facilitate smoother interaction with regard to
various pending agreements, the U.S. side asked whether it
was possible to determine a priori which new agreements
negotiated between the U.S. and Greek militaries were

ATHENS 00001531 003 OF 004

self-executing and which had to go to parliament for
ratification. The Greek co-chairman and Mrs. Livada said
that each agreement had to be looked at individually, but in
general, agreements that had no financial implications and
the ones that are too technical usually did not need
parliamentary approval. Everybody agreed that each time a
new agreement was being negotiated it should be briefed to
the JC.


12. (SBU) Under the category of &Other Business,8 the U.S.
side inquired about delays in Greece's signing a bilateral
shipboarding agreement under the Proliferation Security
Initiative (PSI). PSI is designed to enhance the detection
and prevention of illicit WMD material trafficking. To make
full use of PSI, the U.S. has asked Greece to sign a
bilateral shipboarding agreement governing various procedures
for the inspection of each country's vessels on the high seas
by either country. Negotiations over the terms of a ship
boarding agreement occurred periodically since September
2004. Greece has endorsed PSI and will host the October 2007
PSI Experts, Meeting in Rhodes. But the GOG has not signed
a bilateral shipboarding agreement due primarily to concerns
of Greek shipowners, who control a large proportional of the
world's commercial shipping fleet. The Ship Owners,
Association is concerned about how liability for damages
would be dealt with under the current form of the agreement.

13. (SBU) At the Joint Commission meeting, CDA ) while
acknowledging that PSI was outside the normal scope of the JC
-- stressed that it was in the Greek Government's interest to
sign the shipboarding agreement since the U.S. was prepared
to board any vessel suspected of transporting illicit WMD
whether or not a bilateral shipboarding was in place and
Greece would be in a better position if an agreement were
signed. Mrs. Livada avoided a direct answer, citing the
complexity of the issue and on-going concerns of the
shipowners. CDA said we would like to have progress on the
issue before the October meeting in Rhodes.


14. (SBU) Souda Bay NSA Executive Assistant Bruce Gale then
said that there were a number of small projects that needed
approval before funding disappeared on October 1, 2007.
Under normal procedures, the projects would be approved by
the HAF before being presented to the JC. Gale argued,
however, that he could not get USN approval and funding for
the projects until he had conditional approval of the GOG.
The projects in question included:

-- Connecting the Admin building with an adjoining building
to provide more space for Greek representatives to Souda Bay

-- Small addition to the Gymnasium;

-- Construction of a small auto &hobby shop8 where Souda
Bay NSA personnel could repair their POVs.

15. (SBU) Gale asked for preliminary approval for the
construction by the JC, conditional on the HAF giving their
technical approval for the projects. The Greek co-chairman
responded that he could not give the approval now but would
expedite the approval within the MFA even without the HAF
technical evaluation. Gale asked for an answer by August 15
before funding evaporated. The Greek co-chairman promised a
timely, even if unofficial, answer.

16. (SBU) Finally, the Greek side inquired about the dates of
the next U.S.-Greek High Level Consultative Committee (HLCC),
which is slated for Washington. The U.S. side responded that
it did not yet have a firm date, but hoped the meeting would
take place in October.

17. (SBU) 99th Joint Commission participants:


ATHENS 00001531 004 OF 004

U.S. Embassy:
Mr. Thomas M. Countryman, Charge d,Affaires a.i. and JC
Dr. Paul M. Carter, Jr., Deputy Political Counselor and
Political-Military Chief

Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC):
Colonel Steve G. Boukedes, ODC Chief
Lt. Colonel Robert L. May, Jr., ODC Legal Advisor
Ms. Alexandra Karavasili, Host Nation Attorney
Ms. Catherine Hirt, ODC Legal Assistant

Souda Bay NSA:
Captain Thomas McDonough, Base Commander
Commander Mark Nowicki, Executive Officer
Mr. Bruce Gale, Executive Assistant
Lt. Brett Cook, Judge Advocate General's Office


Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Mr. Greg Vassiloconstandakis, Acting Director A7 Directorate,
JC Co-Chairman
Ms. Fanni Leivada, Legal Department

Hellenic National Defense General Staff (HNDGS):
Colonel G.Petkos, IRD
Colonel L. Assimakis

Hellenic Navy:
Captain A. Krimiotis,G2

Hellenic Air Force:
Colonel V. Tsakoumis, Commander 115th CW
Major Th. Papadakis, Assistant Representative to U.S. Facility

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