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US ‘supports withdrawal’ of Barbaros from EEZ

US Ambassador stated that the US position on Cyprus’ sovereign rights was clear

By Jean Christou

THE US supports the withdrawal of the Turkish survey vessel Barbaros from the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the cancellation of the NAVTEX notification it issued for seismic exploration, Ambassador John Koenig said yesterday.

Speaking on a CyBC breakfast television show, Koenig said Turkey’s actions were a violation of international law and stressed that the US had been among the first countries to say so when the Navigational Telex was issued in early October.

The Barbaros entered the EEZ on October 20, the start date of the NAVTEX, which sets December 30 as an end date for the surveys. Turkey’s actions prompted the Greek Cypriot side to withdraw from the UN-led Cyprus negotiations.

Koenig said it was important the two sides returned to the talks and said the US and others were working behind the scenes with UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide to defuse the situation so that the talks could resume. “We are looking for a way to get the sides back to the negotiating table,” said Koenig. He added that one of the elements of that was that the Barbaros should leave Cyprus’ EEZ and the NAVTEX should be withdrawn.

He said Eide had a package of measures that could “open the door” for the resumption of talks and the US supported that. Koenig rejected suggestions that the US was keeping “equal distance” from the two sides, stating the US position on Cyprus’ sovereign rights was clear.

CyBC also reported yesterday that Russian Ambassador Stanislav Osadchiy had passed on Moscow’s assurances that Cyprus had the full support of the Kremlin in respect of its sovereign rights. China, too, reportedly passed on a similar message to Nicosia.

Meanwhile, nine Greek and Cypriot diaspora organisations in the US sent a letter to Eide expressing concern over the UN’s response to the Turkish violations.

The letter was signed by the heads of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, the American Hellenic Institute, UHAC National, AHEPA, PSEKA, Cyprus Federation of America, the Hellenic Federation of New Jersey and the American Hellenic Council.

It said while they welcomed his appointment as special adviser, his reaction to date “leaves us less confident about the efforts to reunify Cyprus than we have been for over a year”.

“While we can appreciate attempts to de-escalate tensions via quiet diplomacy, we fear that the extraordinary attempts your team and others are going through to avoid calling Turkey’s actions a provocation and statements that effectively blame the victim – the Republic of Cyprus and Greek-Cypriots in this case – are taking the process backwards,” the letter said.

“We will not recite the 40 year history of illegal invasion and occupation, as it is plainly laid out in UN resolutions. Our desire is to get past that tragic history. We do not have details of your quiet diplomacy and have not had the pleasure of meeting with you as of yet, but the actions you are taking and statements you are making during this last crisis come close to sanctioning Turkey’s continued blackmail of Cyprus.

A reunified Cyprus where Greek and Turkish Cypriots benefit from all that Cyprus has to offer would “never become a reality via the barrel of Turkey’s gun”.

“We hereby request that you delink any discussion about Cyprus’ energy future from the insistence on Turkey removing its ships from Cyprus’ EEZ”.

The letter also expresses the readiness of the organisations to meet Eide and discuss “how we can be helpful to your efforts and have an open airing of views on how to reunify Cyprus”.

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