Wess Mitchell’s visit raises concerns in Northern Cyprus

“It is not acceptable for a U.S. official to make various meetings at the Greek Cypriot avoiding equivalent meetings with the Northern Cyprus" said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

In its written statement reacting to the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell’s visit to Cyprus on Friday, the Ministry said that Mitchell’s visit and his statements “demonstrated once more the reasons why negotiations on the Cyprus question remain fruitless”.

Cyprus has been split between a Greek Cypriot administration in the south, recognised internationally as the government of the whole island, and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot government in the north recognised only by Turkey, following a Turkish invasion of the northern third of Cyprus in 1974.

“The statements of an American official yesterday about natural gas resources of the island, which are recognized by all parties including the Cypriot Greeks that also belong to the Turkish Cypriots, has inflicted a heavy blow to the efforts for cooperation,” noted the TRNC statement. The Ministry stated that conflicting acts of those repeatedly declaring their support to a mutual solution in the Island could not be accepted.

The statement also said that the unbalanced meeting schedule of newly appointed Mitchell “has created serious suspicion about his ability to handle the Cyprus question in a fair and neutral way”.

During his visit to Nicosia, Southern Cyprus on Friday, Mitchell told to the press that Washington supports Cyprus’s right to explore and exploit its natural resources and that it wants to see a resumption of peace talks to reunify the island.

A number of countries are racing to discover potentially huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu sparked tensions over the exploration in early March, when he claimed a deal for an exclusive economic zone between Cyprus and Egypt was “null and void”, and said that the deal contravened the “inalienable rights” of Turkish Cypriots to benefit from the island’s resources.

Tensions between Turkey and Greece have been on the rise too, with politicians on both sides making a number of provocative displays around the control of the Aegean Sea.

Ocean Investigator, the survey ship of U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil, arrived at the island of Cyprus on Wednesday as political tensions with Turkey over gas exploration rights in the Mediterranean persisted.

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