Washington hails Athens for willingness to look for a solution to row with Ankara, as top US diplomat Mike Pompeo holds talks with Greek officials.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias touch elbows during their meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece, September 28, 2020.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias touch elbows during their meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece, September 28, 2020. (Reuters)

The United States has welcomed Greece's willingness to look for a solution to a territorial row with Turkey after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks with Greek officials.

Rival claims to potentially resource-rich territory under the Mediterranean should be resolved "peacefully in accordance with international law," said Pompeo and Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias on Monday in a joint statement after holding talks in Thessaloniki.

Last week Athens and Ankara said they were ready to start talks.

A statement from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office said both sides were ready to restart talks that will take place in Istanbul on a date to be announced.

"Let's meet, let's talk, and let's seek a mutually acceptable solution. Let's give diplomacy a chance," Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday to Erdogan, in an address to the virtual UN General Assembly.

Pompeo, on a two-day visit to Greece, said that the US "welcomed Greece's confirmed readiness to engage with other countries in the region to achieve maritime delimitation agreements."

READ MORE: Turkey and Greece to meet in Istanbul for eastern Mediterranean talks

Greece-Turkey tussle 

Greece has disputed Turkey's energy exploration in the region, trying to box in Turkish maritime territory based on small islands near the Turkish coast.

Turkey – the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean – has sent out drill ships to explore for energy reserves on its continental shelf, saying that both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have rights in the region.

US-Greece strategic ties

He will fly to the Greek island of Crete on Tuesday and tour the NATO naval base of Souda Bay.

Mitsotakis – who is hosting Pompeo at his family home on Crete – wants closer military ties with the US.

The secretary of state last October signed a defence agreement allowing US forces a broader use of Greek military facilities.

On Monday, both sides said they intended to "further enhance their strategic defence and security partnership" in talks in Washington next year.

A key element of the October deal was the northern Greek port of Alexandroupolis, a Balkans and Black Sea gateway of strategic value to the US Navy and NATO.

The US has been granted priority status to the port after paying roughly $2.3 million to remove a sunken dredging barge that had blocked part of the harbour since 2010.

At the time, Greek officials said the Pentagon was expected to invest over $14 million on the Greek airbase of Larissa and around six million euros at Marathi, part of the Souda base.

READ MORE: Why Turkey and Greece have so many differences

Pressure on Huawei

The visit to Thessaloniki is also intended as a sign to the Balkans on American willingness to invest in the region, the State Department said.

Pompeo signed a bilateral science and technology agreement and hosted an energy sector gathering of business leaders. 

Pompeo's tour later in the week also includes stops in Italy, the Vatican and Croatia.

In Rome, the secretary of state will discuss efforts by the Trump administration to deter its European allies from using equipment by Chinese manufacturer Huawei in developing their 5G networks. 

The US accuses Huawei of being a tool for Chinese espionage. 

Pompeo is also scheduled to attend a meeting at the Vatican on religious freedom, his human rights priority. There, too, he is expected to warn of China's actions against minorities, including Muslims.

READ MORE: Greece denies deal on NATO-brokered talks with Turkey on east Mediterranean

Source: TRTWorld and agencies