The western Balkans are an area of common interest between Greece and the United States, US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt said during a visit to the northwestern city of Ioannina on Friday.

The ambassador referred to a meeting he and Wess Mitchell, assistant secretary of State for European Affairs, had a day earlier with Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, noting that "like me, assistant secretary Mitchell comes to the US-Greece relationship with the strategic framework that emphasizes Greece's role as a pillar of stability in the wider region."

Responding to questions after meeting with Ioannina Mayor Thomas Begas, Pyatt said, "Greece and the US share the same outlook on that region, which is to see the countries of the western Balkans continue to move towards European institutions, towards membership in the EU, and, if they so choose, towards membership in NATO."

In terms of Turkey, the ambassador said both Greece and the United States hoped that Turkey kept its western focus. "The United States and Greece have the same interest vis-?-vis Turkey: We want to see Turkey remain anchored in the West, anchored in the European institutions, and we appreciate the efforts that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his government continue to make, to engage with Ankara and to help Turkey remain focused towards the West," Pyatt said.

In a tweet later on, the ambassador also thanked Begas, tweeting, "I very much appreciated deep discussion with Ioannina's Mayor Thomas Begas on my optimism on the prospects for new industry, economic growth in Epiros that the new highway brings with it."