Greek PM asks US’s Pompeo for help to calm offshore tensions with Turkey

Greek PM, left, told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, that Turkey’s drilling actions are a violation of sovereignty rights. (AFP)
Updated 05 October 2019

Greek PM asks US’s Pompeo for help to calm offshore tensions with Turkey

  • Pompeo is on the last leg of his southern Europe visit
  • Greek PM said they are only asking for “the implementation of international law”

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.


Afghan assembly approves release of 400 ‘hard-core’ Taliban prisoners

Updated 1 min ago

Afghan assembly approves release of 400 ‘hard-core’ Taliban prisoners

  • Some 3,200 Afghan community leaders and politicians gathered to advise the government on whether the prisoners should be freed
KABUL: Afghanistan’s grand assembly, or Loya Jirga, on Sunday approved the release of 400 “hard-core” Taliban prisoners, paving the way for the beginning of peace talks aimed at ending more than 19 years of war.
“In order to remove an obstacle, allow the start of the peace process and an end of bloodshed, the Loya Jirga approves the release of 400 Taliban,” the assembly said in a resolution.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had convened the assembly in the capital Kabul, where some 3,200 Afghan community leaders and politicians gathered amid tight security and concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic to advise the government on whether the prisoners should be freed.
The Taliban militants had insisted they be released as a condition for entering peace talks with the government. With the release, the Afghan government will fulfil its pledge to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
Western diplomats said talks between the warring parties will start in Doha this week.
Deliberation around the release of last batch of Taliban prisoners, accused of conducting some of the bloodiest attacks across Afghanistan, had triggered outrage among civilians and rights groups who questioned the morality of the peace process.
But ahead of November elections, US President Donald Trump is determined to fulfil a major campaign promise of ending America’s longest war.
The drawdown will bring the number of US troops to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday.
In a February pact allowing for the withdrawal of US troops, Washington and the Taliban agreed on the release of the Taliban prisoners as a condition for the talks with Kabul.