NICOSIA (Reuters) – The United States is “deeply concerned” about Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday, urging a diplomatic end to a pressing crisis on offshore natural resources.
Tensions have risen in the eastern Mediterranean and Turkey claims against Greece and Cyprus for natural gas-rich marine areas.
“Countries in the region need to resolve differences in a diplomatic and peaceful manner, including security and energy resources and maritime issues,” Pompeo said in a fleeting visit to Cyprus on Saturday night.
“Increasing military tension does not help anyone else, but allies who want to see a split in unity,” he said.
Turkey has sent two survey vessels to different regions in the region, sparking strong protests from both Cyprus and Greece, which it says Ankara is operating on their respective continental shelves.
Turkey says it has a legitimate claim to the region. There is no agreement between Greece and Turkey destroying their continental shelves, while Turkey disputes any claim by Cyprus with which it has no diplomatic ties.
“We are deeply involved with Turkey’s ongoing campaigns … The Republic of Cyprus has the right to exploit its natural resources, including the right to hydrocarbons,” Pompeo said.
The 1974 invasion of Turkey shattered the island of the eastern Mediterranean, inspired by a Greek-inspired coup. Its internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government represents the entire island in the European Union, although its authority is effectively vested in the southern part. Northern Cyprus is an unrecognized Turkish Cypriot state recognized only by Ankara.
Earlier this month the United States said it would lift a 33-year ban on “non-lethal defense articles” applied to Cyprus in 1987 and deepen its security cooperation with Nicosia, indicating an angry response from Turkey.
Pompeo said he picked up with Anastasiades’ concerns over Russian money laundering – something Cyprus repeatedly denies as well as frequent harbor calls by the Russian Navy on the island.
“We are aware that not all Russian military vessels stopping in Cyprus are conducting humanitarian missions in Syria and we ask Cyprus and the President to consider our concerns.”
Reporting by Michelle Kamba; Editing by William McLean and Daniel Wallis