Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Palmer has expressed Washington's deep concern over Turkey's actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, stressing that US diplomacy has made its position very clear in Ankara. He explained that Turkey's drilling activities, combined with the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Tripoli government, are counterproductive and do not contribute to the stability and security of the Eastern Mediterranean.
"We were clear about our expectations in our private and public messages, about how we would all expect the Eastern Mediterranean to behave and support international law and act in a way that favors security. We are quite clear in our discussions with our Turkish partners about our concerns, "Matthew Palmer said during a teleconference with Greek correspondents.
In this regard, the US official reaffirmed that Washington fully supports the right of the Republic of Cyprus to conduct hydrocarbon exploration within its EEZ. He even reminded that the State Department recognizes that islands like Crete have the same rights as the mainland coasts for the EEZ.
The United States has a different view of the law of the sea than Turkey
Regarding the fact that the Turkish side has responded to the messages that have been sent, Mr. Palmer clarified that he will not speak on behalf of Ankara. However, he reminded that Turkey is not a party to the Convention on the Law of the Sea and therefore interprets the rights of island states differently.
"We had talks with our Turkish partners about this. But I know that Turkey's view, Turkey's perception of the legal framework, is different from ours. It is different from Cyprus, different from Greece and different from most countries in the world. This is one of the fundamental underlying challenges and it is something we need to work on to deal with our friends, partners and allies, trying to manage the friction and tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, "he said.
Cyprus upgrade as a "strategic partner" in the framework of the new US US strategy
The US official estimated that the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program will further strengthen US-Cyprus cooperation in key areas such as maritime security and the fight against human trafficking.
"We are committed to stability and security in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Republic of Cyprus is a supportive partner in this effort. The new US strategy for the Mediterranean requires strengthening relations with strategic partners, including the Republic of Cyprus. We continue to expand our security relationship. "Since we signed the Declaration of Intentions in 2018 for US-Cyprus cooperation, we have held joint military exercises and the Republic of Cyprus has sent its first military attache to the Washington embassy," Palmer said.
Regarding the next steps to be taken to further upgrade the strategic nature of bilateral relations, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State said that the State Department is considering all available tools, including US-related IT (existing restrictions on ). He explained that lifting these restrictions would help deepen security co-operation with the Republic of Cyprus.
"I would say that today's development (IMET) is not the end of a story, but the next stop on a journey," he said.
Eastern Mediterranean: Area of increased strategic importance
Asked to comment on Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo's report that IMET's targets include tackling Russian and Chinese influence, Mr Palmer said the US Secretary of State was referring more broadly to the Mediterranean region.
"Mike Pompeo talked about the whole Mediterranean. But we are focusing on the Eastern Mediterranean as an area of increasing strategic importance and strategic competition. The Russians are there. the Chinese are there. And at the regional level, the Iranians are there. "We want the United States to be there and compete for positive influence, and we believe that our vision for the region offers a more secure future with stability, peace and prosperity."
In a statement that the United States is showing little interest in the Middle East, Matthew Palmer has strongly opposed it, saying Washington remains deeply committed to co-operating in the region. "This is an area of great strategic importance to the United States," he said. We are committed to deepening and strengthening the security security relations and broad relations we have throughout the region, including the Republic of Cyprus, as well as with our allies such as Turkey, Greece, Israel, and other countries in the region. Thus, we are strongly focused on developments in the Eastern Mediterranean."
Cyprus' accession to IMET does not change the US position on the Cyprus issue
Matthew Palmer explained that Cyprus' inclusion in the International Military Training and Preparation Program does not signal a change in the US position on resolving the Cyprus issue.
"What we are probably doing is to support the efforts of the UN Secretary-General and his envoy to see where we are, to identify common ground and to write the terms of reference that could serve as a basis for a renewed dialogue. I will focus on the positive nature of American influence on this issue, that is, to support the United Nations, to support the Secretary-General, to work to encourage progress that would bring the parties to the table, "Palmer said.