US Wants Turkey to Stop Drilling Off Cyprus, Tension Grows

(AP Photo, File)

NICOSIA – The United States has repeated its insistence that Turkey stop drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot sovereign waters as Turkey Turkey blocked a request from the legitimate government of the island to take part in the global Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

The issue has been complicated by US President Donald Trump’s friendship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was praised by the American Commander-in-Chief as a “hell of a leader,” who has yawned over demands to stop his ships from hunting for energy.

Still, a US State Department spokesman issued a perfunctory statement that Washington is “deeply concerned,” reported Kathimerini Cyprus, a typical carefully-worded diplomatic statement, about the drilling operations in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) parts of which Turkey doesn’t recognize.

That came as Turkey said it would dispatch the drill ship Yavuz south of Limassol. ,This provocative step raises tensions in the region. We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations,” the spokesperson said during a press briefing in Washington where the US has limited its response to statements and press releases.

The State Department, trying to walk the line between supporting Cyprus without provoking Erdogan, said Cyprus and Turkey should find some way to ratchet down the tension although the drilling has ended for now any hopes of restarting reunification talks that collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.

Those fell apart when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove a 35,000-strong standing army from the northern third Turkey has occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion and as they wanted the right militarily intervene when they wanted.

Cyprus had wanted to take part in the Geneva conference but Turkey put the kibosh on that, vetoing the attempt and leaving Cyprus the only country that requested a role there to be turned away from taking part.

A Turkish representative said Turkey had in the past refrained from blocking Cyprus’ participation, by simply voicing its displeasure in a letter at the end of each session, said Kathimerini, but this time blocked it outright.

That came after the Cypriot government called Turkey a “pirate state” over the drilling and the European Union voiced its displeasure which has been limited to soft sanctions although Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades wants the international community to put more heat on Turkey.

The Geneva Disarmament Conference is a multilateral disarmament forum that meets three times a year in Switzerland. The global forum negotiates arms control and disarmament accords and focuses on the cessation of the nuclear arms race.