ATHENS: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday urged the United States to use its influence to defuse tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, where Cyprus and Turkey are locked in a dispute over offshore rights.
Mitsotakis told visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Turkish moves south of the island in recent days were a ‘flagrant violation’ of Cyprus’ sovereign rights.
Tensions between Cyprus and Turkey over offshore drilling have intensified after Ankara sent a drilling ship to an area already licensed by Nicosia to Italian and French energy companies.
“The United States have a particular interest in the eastern Mediterranean region. Cyprus is only asking for the self-evident, the implementation of international law,” Mitsotakis told Pompeo, who is visiting Greece on the last leg of a trip to southern Europe.
“I anticipate the positive contribution of the United States to lead to the creation finally of a more constructive and fruitful climate of cooperation in the region,” Mitsotakis told Pompeo.
The US wants to ensure that rules govern exploration of energy sources in the Mediterranean Sea, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during his visit, adding that Turkey’s illegal drilling in the region is unacceptable.
“We want to make sure that rules govern international exploration in the Mediterranean Sea’s energy resources and that no country can hold Europe hostage,” Pompeo said.
“We have told the Turks that illegal drilling is unacceptable and we’ll continue to take diplomatic actions to make sure that we do, as we do always, ensure that lawful activity takes place,” Pompeo said.
“We are working to get the parties, everyone, to deescalate and find the outcomes that are mutually agreeable,” he said.
Pompeo also, during meetings with Greek government officials, raised concerns about Chinese investments in infrastructure, he added.
Egypt’s foreign ministry expressed its support for Cyprus’ offshore drilling in the country’s territorial waters and warned against measures that threaten the security and stability of the eastern Mediterranean region.
Ankara says some of the areas where Cyprus is exploring are either on its own continental shelf or in zones where Turkish Cypriots have equal rights over any finds with Greek Cypriots.
The US Secretary of State was due to hold talks on Saturday with his Greek counterpart and the defense minister. Responding to Mitsotakis, Pompeo did not refer to Cyprus.
“Today the relationship between (our) two countries has truly never been stronger,” Pompeo said, praising the efforts of Greece on its path to economic recovery.
“We are very confident that together we can work to ensure Greece can be a pillar for stability in this region.”
A Turkish drill ship, the Yavuz, is currently 50 nautical miles off Cyprus and plans to start drilling work on Monday.
NATO allies Turkey and Greece are at loggerheads over the island, which has been ethnically split between Greek and Turkish Cypriots since 1974.