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Dec 16 2018

U.S. official sends message to Turkey against obstructing Cyprus drilling

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell has sent a message to Ankara not to obstruct drilling for hydrocarbons that is under way in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Greek newspaper Kathimerini’s Sunday edition reported.

Turkey has made its intentions to drill in areas west of the divided island of Cyprus known, in spite of protests from the Greek Cypriot and its allies. Some of the areas explored by Turkish vessels lie in the exclusive economic zone claimed by the Greek Cypriot administration, which has caused increased tensions between Ankara and Athens. While the dispute in the eastern Mediterranean over gas explorations on offshore Cyprus continues, both Turkey and Greece have been stepping up their own surveying and drilling efforts.

Mitchell stressed that Turkey’s view “is a minority of one versus the rest of the world,” noting,“The rest of the world has a very clear, straightforward view that the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus is grounded in international law.”

Underlining that Cyprus has the right to develop its resource, Mitchell said, “Our line has been consistent. Cyprus is a sovereign country and just like any other sovereign country it has resources and can develop those resources.”

“Greece, Cyprus and Israel are very important countries for the US because they are stable, democratic, western allies in a region where you don’t find a lot of stable, democratic partners,” Kathimerini quoted Mitchell as saying, adding that it was a “natural step” for Washington to deepen its cooperation with Greece, Cyprus and Israel, as important allies in the region.

The U.S. would “not take a friendly view to any kind of harassment in Cyprus waters especially when US ships are involved,” Mitchell said, in reference to an incident earlier this year involving vessel chartered by Italy’s ENI where Turkish warships in February twice blocked the course of an exploration vessel leased by the energy firm.