US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed concern over Turkey’s operations in the Eastern Mediterranean and noted that increased tensions would not bring any solutions to the problems in the regions. He said moreover that he is in favor of a diplomatic solution and added that there needs to be an agreement on maritime issues. Any disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean should be resolved through dialogue and not by gun-boat diplomacy, said the President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, following a meeting with Pompeo at the Presidential Palace, in Nicosia.
Pompeo arrived on Saturday evening for a short visit to Cyprus and held talks with President Anastasiades in the presence of Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides. In statements to the Press after the meeting, Pompeo said that “we remain deeply concerned by Turkey’s ongoing operations surveying for natural resources in areas over which Greece and Cyprus assert jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
The Republic of Cyprus has the right to exploit its natural resources including the right to hydrocarbons found in its territorial sea and its EEZ, he added. He also said that the resources of Cyprus should be shared equitably among the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot community.
President Anastasiades said on his part that Pompeo’s visit, at a time when crucial developments are taking place in Eastern Mediterranean, due to Turkey’s illegal actions, aptly demonstrates the sincere concern and interest of the US in preserving stability in the region.
Furthermore, the President expressed his deep appreciation to the US Government for its firm stance on condemning Turkey’s illegal drillings within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone, in full support to the unhindered exercise by Cyprus of its sovereign rights to explore and exploit its natural resources.
“I also conveyed our full support to the US position that any disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean should be resolved through dialogue and not by gun-boat diplomacy,” the President underlined.
He also informed the State Secretary of Nicosia’s readiness to delimitate its maritime zones north and west of Cyprus with Turkey, either through bilateral negotiations or by recourse to the International Court of Justice.
In relation to the Cyprus problem, President Anastasiades said that he reiterated his commitment for the resumption of the negotiating process from where it was interrupted at Crans Montana, adding however that for negotiations to resume “it is imperative that Turkey should terminate its aggressive and provocative actions, not only in our Exclusive Economic Zone but also in relation with Varosha.”
On the sidelines of the meeting, Cyprus’ Foreign Minister and the US Secretary of State signed a Memorandum of Understanding providing for the establishment of training facility in the coastal city of Larnaca.
Pompeo said in his statement that “our conversations reflected the vast growing security and economic partnership between the USA and the Republic of Cyprus.”
“I dare say that our relationship has never been better and I am proud of that,” he stressed.
He noted that security cooperation between the two countries is growing. “On September 1st I announced the decision to temporary waive export controls on direct commercial sales of non-lethal defence articles and services for the Republic of Cyprus and in July we invited Cyprus to participate in our military training programme IMET,” he noted, something which he noted is a big deal.
Moreover he referred to the MoU which he signed with his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides to create a new training centre to be funded by the United States and built in Cyprus, that will provide expertise on security and will be known as the Cyprus Center for Land, Open Seas and Port Security (CYCLOPS)
Pompeo said that “security cooperation matters all the more as we see nations which do not share our values trying to obtain new footholds in the region.`
To that end, he noted, “I raised the US concern over Russia’s money laundering activities and its regular port calls here. We know that all Russian military vessels that stop in Cypriot ports are not conducting humanitarian missions in Syria and we asked Cyprus and the President to consider our concerns.”
I also heard, he added, “from the President the Republic of Cyprus` perspective on challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean related to energy exploration and development. I reiterated that President Trump has spoken with both President Erdogan and with Prime Minister Mitsotakis already.”
The US official stressed that “countries in the region need to resolve disagreements including of security and energy resources, maritime issues, diplomatically and peacefully. Increased military tensions help no one but adversaries who would like to see division in transatlantic unity,” he said.
He noted that energy in the Eastern Mediterranean can bring states together and that “regional cooperation is absolutely necessary for durable energy security, for creation of new markets and economic prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
“We remain deeply concerned by Turkey’s ongoing operations surveying for natural resources in areas over which Greece and Cyprus assert jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Republic of Cyprus has the right to exploit its natural resources including the right to hydrocarbons found in its territorial sea and its EEZ,” Pompeo said.
We also believe, he added, that the resources of Cyprus should be shared equitably among the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot community.
Referring to the Cyprus problem, he said that the United States continues to support a comprehensive settlement to reunify the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation which will benefit all Cypriots as well as the wider region.
On his part President Anastasiades said that Pompeo`s visit “at a time when crucial developments are taking place in Eastern Mediterranean, due to Turkey’s illegal actions, aptly demonstrates the sincere concern and interest of the US in preserving stability in our region.”
As we have discussed, these unlawful activities, despite repeated calls on Ankara to refrain from provocative actions, should be immediately terminated, he noted.
“In this context, I expressed my deep appreciation to the US Government for its firm stance on condemning Turkey’s illegal drillings within our Exclusive Economic Zone, in full support to the unhindered exercise by Cyprus of its sovereign rights to explore and exploit its natural resources,” Anastasiades said.
I also conveyed our full support to the US position that any disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean should be resolved through dialogue and not by gun-boat diplomacy, he added.
Anastasiades noted that he informed the State Secretary “of our readiness for the delimitation of our maritime zones north and west of Cyprus with Turkey, either through bilateral negotiations or by recourse to the International Court of Justice.”
As regards the Cyprus problem he said that he reiterated in the strongest manner his commitment for the resumption of the negotiating process form where it was interrupted at Crans Montana.
He stressed that for negotiations to resume on the basis of good will, “it is imperative that Turkey should terminate its aggressive and provocative actions, not only in our Exclusive Economic Zone but also in relation with Varosha.”
“To this end, I urged the State Secretary to adopt a proactive stance and exert every effort to stop Turkey from implementing any illegal actions or plans as regards the fenced area of Varosha, in violation of international law and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” Anastasiades said.
Referring to the bilateral relations between the two countries, he said that they welcomed their significant advancement these past years, based on a positive agenda.
“An agenda, which is characterized by our joint commitment and close co-operation, amongst others, in the fight against terrorism, human trafficking, drugs trafficking and in addressing common challenges and problems, particularly in our immediate region,” he noted.
The President said that “the smooth implementation of many aspects of the Statement of Intent exemplifies this upgraded level in our relationship, as also evident by the recent decision to partially lift the US arms embargo on Cyprus.”
At the same time, the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of a Cypriot Training Center, sends, yet again, a clear political signal as regards the new levels of our relationship, he noted.
Anastasiades assured Pompeo that the Government and himself remain committed and determined “to continue working closely together so as to further reinforce our mutually beneficial partnership, which, I believe, can be assessed as strategic.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. Turkey has ignored numerous UN resolutions calling for the withdrawal of the Turkish troops and respect of the integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.
Ankara sent on several occasions its seismic research vessel ‘Barbaros’ to Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), following the Republic of Cyprus’ decision, in 2011, to start exploratory offshore drilling. After May 2019, Turkey caused a stir by sending consecutively two drill ships, “Fatih” and “Yavuz”, to conduct unauthorised drilling activities of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean, at times in areas licensed by Cyprus to international energy companies.
The European Council reaffirmed its full solidarity with Cyprus, regarding the respect of its sovereignty and sovereign rights in accordance with international law and in February 2020, placed two persons under restrictive measures, in relation to Turkey`s unauthorised drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Pictured: Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hold a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, 12 September 2020. CNA/Katia Christodoulou