With Turkish warships trying to block foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas off the island, Cyprus’ legitimate government should share any potentially lucrative revenus with Turkish-Cypriots unlawfully occupying the northern third, a top US diplomat has said.
Jonathan Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs for the State Department, said the resources should be shared equitably – as Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has already agreed.
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader said that’s not enough and want the their side directly involved in the licensing and operations and warned they will otherwise conduct drilling on their own although unable so far to find a company willing to do that.
Turkey doesn’t recognize parts of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where drilling will be done and its warships kept the Italian company Eni from reaching waters where it is authorized to be although an American company – with ships from the US Sixth Fleet conducting drills nearby – was able to proceed with operations without being confronted.
Cohen replied in writing to questions concerning Cyprus, submitted by New Jersey Democratic Senator, Bob Menendez, the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who had said the US should reassess its relationship with Turkey over Erdogan’s increasing provocations in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.
From 2008-11, Cohen served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Nicosia, the divided Cypriot capital and has extensive experience and knowledge of the country’s troubled history, split since a Turkish invasion in 1974.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee moved without a vote the confirmation of Cohen, to the full Senate, where he is expected to receive an easy approval. Cohen was nominated by President Donald Trump to be the Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations.
Asked on the role the UN Security Council should play about Turkey’s belligerence in the Aegean and its warships, he said that, “If confirmed, I will continue to support longstanding U.S. policy recognizing the Republic of Cyprus’s right to develop its resources in its EEZ. The island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities on the island in the context of an overall settlement,” the Cyprus Mail said.
The diplomatic answer meant essentially that the US supports Cyprus and Turkey, an important country geo-politically for American interests in the Middle East and the long-running war on terror.
NATO, where the US has particular influence, has said nothing about the Turkish warships – technically part of the defense alliance – harassing a European Union country at the same time Turkey has been trying to join the bloc since 2005 while refusing to recognize Cyprus and barring its ships and planes.
Cohen said he will “discourage any actions or rhetoric that increases tensions,” adding it is “important that the countries in the region continue to create the conditions that will facilitate peaceful economic development and enable companies to operate in a stable and predictable environment. If confirmed, I will urge the Security Council to send the same message.”
He provided no details of what could be done to discourage tensions created by Erdogan who has ignored the US, UN, EU and all critics while ramping up provocations in the seas around Cyprus and Greece – a fellow NATO member.
“Stability in the Eastern Mediterranean is a top priority for the Administration. If confirmed, I would be willing to take steps to enhance the relationship between the United States and the Republic of Cyprus. I will continue to support the high-level U.S. engagement with the Republic of Cyprus on the settlement process and on the wide range of other issues of common concern to both countries,” continuing diplomatic boilerplate language that said almost nothing of significance.