US con­cern at ten­sions off the coast of Cyprus

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

As Turkey fu­els fears in the east­ern Mediter­ranean by in­sist­ing on main­tain­ing the seis­mic survey ves­sel Bar­baros off the south­ern coast of Cyprus, Wash­ing­ton has ex­pressed its con­cern over re­newed ten­sions in the re­gion and has un­der­lined its support for Nicosia’s sovereignty and right to de­velop re­sources in its ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone (EEZ).

In a me­dia brief­ing in Wash­ing­ton over the week­end, State Depart­ment spokes­woman Jen Psaki said the US has not changed its po­si­tion on Cyprus. “We con­tinue to rec­og­nize the Repub­lic of Cyprus’s right to de­velop its re­sources and its ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zones,” she said. Asked why Wash­ing­ton does not call on Turkey to stop trans­gres­sions off Cyprus, in the same way as it called on China to freeze provoca­tive acts in the South China Sea, Psaki said, “ev­ery re­gion and ev­ery con­flict and ev­ery coun­try is dif­fer­ent.”

Her com­ments came shortly after US Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den and Cyprus Pres­i­dent Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades dis­cussed re­gional de­vel­op­ments and the “strate­gic part­ner­ship” be­tween the US and Cyprus in a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion. Bi­den ex­pressed his hope that ten­sions will be de-es­ca­lated through diplo­macy and pledged to urge all sides to pur­sue “a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial ap­proach to de­vel­op­ing en­ergy re­sources.”

The two lead­ers also dis­cussed the need for stalled peace talks on Cyprus to re­sume.

“We con­tinue to support strongly the ne­go­ti­a­tion process con­ducted un­der UN Good Of­fices to re­unify the is­land into a bi-zonal, bi-com­mu­nal fed­er­a­tion,” Psaki said.

Nicosia halted the lat­est UN-buffered peace drive on Cyprus ear­lier this month in protest at Turkey’s plans to search for oil and gas in wa­ters where the Cypriot gov­ern­ment has al­ready li­censed com­pa­nies to drill.

A decision by Turkey’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to main­tain its pres­ence off the south­ern coast of Cyprus, de­spite ob­jec­tions by Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, has height­ened fears of ten­sions cli­max­ing in the re­gion.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, in an ar­ti­cle in Sun­day’s Kathimerini, For­eign Min­is­ter Evan­ge­los Venizelos said Greece should not al­low third par­ties to ex­ploit the coun­try’s fi­nan­cial cri­sis in a bid to “force con­ces­sions or com­pro­mises on key na­tional is­sues” such as the Cyprus prob­lem and Greek-Turk­ish re­la­tions in the Aegean.

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