The United States has reiterated its call to Turkey not to proceed with offshore drilling operations within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and repeated its support of the Mediterranean island’s right to exploit and develop its oil and gas resources.
“The US strongly supports the right of Cyprus to exploit and develop its hydrocarbon resources and we believe that the proceeds from those resources should be shared equitably amongst all the people on the island within the framework of a negotiated settlement,” said US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer in an interview he gave in Nicosia to the Cyprus News Agency which was published on Saturday.
Asked about how Washington will react if Turkey moves ahead with drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, Palmer said Ankara has been repeatedly advised to change course.
“We’ve made clear to Turkey that we consider the actions that Turkey has undertaken in terms of its announced intentions to begin drilling as provocative and we have encouraged Turkey to stop those actions,” Palmer said. “We have done that privately, we’ve done it publicly,” he said.
For his part, during a visit to Washington on Friday, Greek Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis shared his concerns with US officials over Turkey’s behavior in Cyprus and the likelihood of Turkish drilling activities also in the area of Kastelorizo in the southeastern Aegean.
In his meetings with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and with acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Apostolakis called for the strengthening of the US military presence in the region to stabilize the situation, offering Washington access to Greek bases if needed.
On Friday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the second Turkish drillship that will be dispatched to the East Mediterranean to conduct drilling off the coast of Cyprus will be protected by frigates. In comments to the Anadolu Agency, he said Turkey’s “kin” in occupied northern Cyprus “are entitled to the same rights as the people in southern Cyprus, especially on matters such as oil in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy also said Friday that offshore drilling activities will soon be conducted in areas that make up a large part of Cyprus’ EEZ.