Dissing Turkey, US Again Backs Cyprus’ Energy Drilling

FILE- (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Repeated warnings by Turkey that foreign energy companies are risking trouble if they try to drill for oil and gas off Cyprus were met with another riposte from the United States to back off and not interfere.

Showing more signs of frays with Turkey, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell told Kathimerini that Cyprus has a right to hunt for energy in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and warned against any attempt to obstruct it.

That came after the Dec. 14 first US-Greece Strategic Dialogue in Washington where President Donald Trump’s leading official on Greek-Turkish affairs and the Eastern Mediterranean said the US regards Greece, as well as Cyprus and Israel, as essential partners in the region.

“Greece, Cyprus and Israel are very important countries for the US because they are stable, democratic, western allies in a region where you don’t find a lot of stable, democratic partners,” Mitchell said, adding that it was a “natural step” for the US to deepen its cooperation with all three countries. “Our line has been consistent. Cyprus is a sovereign country and just like any other sovereign country it has resources and can develop those resources,” Mitchell said.

Turkey’s view “is a minority of one versus the rest of the world,” he said. “The rest of the world has a very clear, straightforward view that the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus is grounded in international law.”

With Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish officials escalating their rhetoric and suggesting military force could be used – and as they complained the US wants to build a military presence on the island where Turkey has been occupying the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion – Mitchell said the US would “not take a friendly view to any kind of harassment in Cyprus waters especially when US ships are involved,” referring to Turkish warships earlier this year driving off a vessel chartered by Italy’s ENI.

American energy giant ExxonMobil has begun exploration off the island in defiance of Turkey and with ships from the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet in the region Turkey’s belligerence has been left to statements with no attempt to have its warships interfere.