As the United States has stepped up support for Cyprus against Turkish drilling for energy offshore and partially lifting an arms embargo to allow non-lethal weapon purchases, Turkey's Foreign Ministry called for American neutrality.
That came after Cyprus and the US also signed a memorandum of understanding to create a training center and after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the island's legitimate government to tighten security cooperation.
Pompeo said the US remained “deeply concerned” about Turkey’s actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Turkey sending an energy research vessel and warship off the Greek island of Kastellorizo before withdrawing them for now.
“The memorandum of understanding will not serve peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and will damage the solution of the Cyprus problem,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said, the news agency Reuters reported.
Instead, said Turkey – which has occupied the northern third of Cyprus since an unlawful 1974 invasion and keeps a 35,000-strong army there, that the US is fueling increased tensions in the East Mediterranean.
“We invite the US to return to the neutrality policy it traditionally follows on the island of Cyprus and to contribute to the efforts aimed at the solution of the Cyprus issue,” the ministry said.
Pompeo said all sides in the East Mediterranean disputes should pull back to “reduce the tension” and the “military footprint” in the region, referring to Greece and Turkey as Cyprus is essentially defenseless.
In an interview with France Inter radio, Pompeo stressed US President Donald Trump’s efforts in trying to de-escalate the rising tension although Trump said he's friendly with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and likes his tough-guy style.
The United States, he said, urges all parties to resolve their differences over maritime rights in the Mediterranean Sea according to international conventions, “without the use of military power but through the normal mechanisms.”