U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Cyprus to find “a peaceful resolution to the growing tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean,” reports France-Presse (AFP), citing information from officials in Washington.
The head of U.S. diplomacy will hold talks in Nicosia on Saturday, September 12, after a trip to the Qatari capital, where the U.S. administration is trying to restart the process of national reconciliation between the government of Afghanistan and the radical Taliban (banned in Russia).
According to a high-ranking U.S. diplomat, Pompeo’s trip to Cyprus will complement President Donald Trump’s phone conversations with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, aimed at defusing the situation in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, which has been heated to the limit.
“We hope that there will be real negotiations, and we hope that the military assets that are there will be withdrawn so that these negotiations can take place,” Pompeo himself said.
His visit to Cyprus will take place shortly after the United States suspended a multi-year arms embargo on the island, which has caused outrage to Turkey, AFP said.
The chief of the State Department will arrive at the European island state just days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was there on a working visit.
As reported by EADaily, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry visited the Republic of Cyprus on September 8, where he held talks with President Nikos Anastasiadis. The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry stated in Nicosia that Moscow “is concerned about the situation in the Mediterranean Sea”. “As for the relations of the Republic of Cyprus with the Republic of Turkey, we are ready to contribute to the establishment of a dialogue, pragmatic, based on mutual interests and the search for solutions that are fair and based on international law. We are very concerned that a far-away power – the United States – is trying to hurt the countries here against each other and generally to promote the line “who is not with us is against us” and force this line to follow everyone else,” Lavrov said. The Russian side is in favor of an early internal Cyprus settlement, “for the implementation of the decisions taken at the UN, for the early resumption and, hopefully, completion of negotiations between the two communities (Greek and Turkish – Ed.) of the island,” said the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Recall that Turkey and Greece, two NATO members, announced in late August that they would conduct military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, in the area between Cyprus and Crete. Turkey has previously extended the exploration mission of its research vessel Oruç Reis in the Eastern Mediterranean, which has led to increased tensions in the region. Exploration work on gas and oil will continue until September 12. Oruç Reis is protected by a special Turkish flotilla. The decision was taken by the Turkish side after European Union officials called for dialogue with Ankara on the parties to the heated conflict, while simultaneously demanding that it refrain from unilateral steps in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Greek Foreign Ministry called the extension of the Turkish research mission illegal and called on the neighboring country to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and continue working to ensure stability in the region.
Turkey is claiming certain maritime areas under an agreement that it signed with the Government of National Accord (GNC) of Libya in November 2019. Last month, Greece and Egypt concluded their own agreement to delineate their exclusive economic zones in the Eastern Mediterranean, which led to an increased escalation in the region. Greece insists that it has exclusive rights to operate in those areas of the Mediterranean where Turkey is trying to conduct test drilling in search of new oil and gas fields. Ankara, in turn, refers to the terms of the agreement concluded with the UN-recognized Libyan government in Tripoli.