Washington: U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo expressed his concern about Turkey’s actions in the Eastern Mediterranean after a meeting in Nicosia on Saturday with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.
“We remain deeply concerned about Turkey’s ongoing operations searching for natural resources in areas over which Greece and Cyprus assert jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Pompeo said.
His visit to the island lasted just a couple of hours, on the heels of meetings in Doha, Qatar, on the Afghan peace process, and followed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit earlier in the week.
Tensions flared in August after Turkey resumed gas exploration in an area where its claims are contested by Cyprus, and began naval exercises and energy surveys in waters where Turkey and Greece both assert exclusive economic rights. Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, have since deployed their navies to the area, and France has started expanding its military presence there in reaction to Turkey’s steps.
“Any disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean should be resolved through dialog and not by gun-boat diplomacy,” Anastasiades said. He also called on Turkey to stop its aggressive provocative actions in order to restart Cyprus’s reunification talks.
“Unlawful activities, despite repeated calls on Ankara to refrain from provocative actions, should be immediately terminated,” he added.
Turkey and Cyprus are at loggerheads over offshore gas reserves around the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where the Republic of Cyprus is an EU member state and officially has sovereignty over the entire island.
The island has been effectively divided into two since Turkey’s military captured the northern third in 1974, following a coup attempt in which a military junta in Athens sought to unite Cyprus with Greece. The Turkish minority’s self-proclaimed state in the north, recognized only by Ankara, also claims rights to any energy resources discovered off its coast.
The U.S.’s recent decision to partially lift a decades-long arms embargo on Cyprus added to the tensions. “The waiver was a long time coming. We’ve been working on it for a while, it was consistent with American policy for an awfully long time,” Pompeo said before the meeting with Anastasiades.
“Regional cooperation is necessary for durable energy security,” Pompeo said. -Bloomberg