ATHENS — After years of bitter disputes and tough negotiations, the United States and Greece signed a new defense agreement Wednesday allowing American bases to stay in the eastern Mediterranean country.
The major installations covered by the agreement are a U.S. Air Force base and a Navy base on the island of Crete and about 20 smaller installations spread across the country.
It was a further sign of dramatic improvements in relations since Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis formed the first Conservative government in nine years after an election victory on April 8.
The agreement was signed by U.S. Ambassador Alan Flanigan and Greek Ambassador Christos Zacharakis on Wednesday morning, officials from both sides said.
Mitsotakis said this week the agreement will run for eight years, but after the signing, officials declined to give details on the pact.
It replaces the five-year Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement, which expired in December, 1988. The Americans had until the end of this year to pack up and go home unless a new agreement was signed.
Under the previous defense agreement, Greece received $350 million in military aid in 1989.
Negotiations on the new accord opened in November, 1987, but were marred by angry disputes between the United States and Greece's then-ruling Socialist government, which had vowed to close what its supporters called "the bases of death."
Talks were suspended by the Socialists in May, 1989, after 17 rounds but reopened after Mitsotakis won the April election.
Negotiations were made easier by a U.S. decision this year to shut two bases due to budget cuts--Hellenikon Air Base sharing Athens airport, and Nea Makri Naval Communications Station, east of Athens.
The pact must be ratified by Greece's 300-seat Parliament, where Mitsotakis controls 151 seats. The U.S. Senate will be informed about the agreement, but its approval is not required.