U.S. to expand military presence in Greece with new base in city bordering Turkey

The United States is set to open a new naval base in Greece's Alexandroupoli, a northern mainland town bordering Turkey, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Wednesday.

Greece and the United States agreed to expand U.S. military presence in Crete and create new military installations at the port of Alexandroupoli for U.S. naval forces under the framework of a defence cooperation agreement, the daily said.

The agreement is due to be implemented in 2020, according to Kathimerini.

The move came at a time when Turkey is at odds with Greek Cypriots and Greece over Cyprus' rich hydrocarbon reserves. And, the United States urged Turkey several times to halt drilling gas off Cyprus, what it calls a provocative step that raises tensions in the region.

Turkey is the only country to formally recognise the Republic of Northern Cyprus, and Ankara says the Greek administration would infringe on Turkish Cypriots’ rights by exploiting the reserves. The Turkish government also disputes the Greek Cypriots’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), part of which Ankara says is situated on Turkey’s continental shelf.

Meanwhile, Greece, Israel and Cyprus have been deepening ties as the three countries seek to benefit from the potentially huge hydrocarbon reserves detected in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Washington has also stepped up efforts and joined the Eastern Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) of Israel, Greece, and Cyprus. A bipartisan bill in the U.S. Congress that was ratified by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee allowed the United States to fully support the trilateral partnership of Israel, Greece and Cyprus through energy and defence cooperation initiatives and proposes the lifting of the long-standing arms embargo on Cyprus.