ATHENS – With the United States worried about an accidental conflict, Greek Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis said he, too, fears there could be a clash over Turkey’s incursions in the East Mediterranean and plans to drill for oil and gas in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ.)
The Cypriot government has licensed foreign companies to hunt for energy in those waters, including US giant ExxonMobil, which has already reported finding a major gas field, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sent two energy vessels and warship into the region as well.
“I am concerned about Turkey’s destabilizing role and problematic stance expressed through unfounded allegations that violate our national sovereignty and rights,” Apostolakis told the 35th Congress of the World Coordination Committee of the Cyprus Struggle (PSEKA) in Washington, D.C.
He said that he was glad for a greater US presence in regional cooperative defense projects, saying it sends a “consistent and clear” message. “Strategic cooperation with the United States, coupled with our commitment to NATO, is a defence priority for us,” he said, although Turkey is also a member of the defense alliance which has said nothing.
Στιγμιότυπα από την πρώτη ημέρα της επίσκεψης ΥΕΘΑ Ευάγγελου Αποστολάκη στις ΗΠΑ
Posted by Υπουργείο Εθνικής Άμυνας on Thursday, June 6, 2019
Referring to the growing escalation of tension between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, the Director of the US State Department’s Office of Southern European Affairs, Yuri Kim, said Washington wants to prevent conflict from breaking out.
She spoke at the same conference which was also attended by former US ambassadors to Greece and Cyprus Daniel Smith and Kathleen Doherty, as well as Senate Foreign Relations Committee adviser Damien Murphy.
Kim said that boosting strategic cooperation with Greece and Cyprus is to the benefit of the US. She also encouraged Cyprus to further engage with the US, reported Kathimerini.
— @HellenicMOD (@Hellenic_MOD) June 6, 2019
US Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who has filed legislation to lift an arms embargo on Cyprus, with Turkey having a 35,000-strong army on the northern third it has occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion, told PSEKA that Turkey was acting erratic.
The bill he co-sponsors with Florida US Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, would allow the US to fully support the trilateral partnership of Greece, Cyprus and Israel through energy and defense cooperation initiatives.
Menendez said the bill would have been necessary even if Turkey was the “perfect ally,” adding however that “a perfect ally would not illegally explore energy resources within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, a flagrant violation of international law.”
A perfect ally would also not violate Greece’s airspace over the Aegean on a daily basis, or think of buying the Russian S-400 systems, expecting to place them next to the F-35s, he continued, the paper said. “Our interests in the Eastern Mediterranean are too important to ignore,” he added.