The US has made clear to Ankara that it considers Turkey’s announced intentions to begin drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean provocative and has encouraged Turkey to stop, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Matthew Palmer, has told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA).
Palmer, who has held a series of meetings in Cyprus this week, said that the US strongly supported the right of Cyprus to exploit and develop its hydrocarbon resources.
“We believe that the proceeds from those resources should be shared equitably amongst all the people of the island within a framework of a negotiated settlement,” he said. “There is a lot on the bilateral agenda as well. I discussed those issues at length in my meetings including with the president, the foreign minister.”
Asked what will the US concretely do in case Turkey insists on drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, Palmer said: “I don’t want to get into hypotheticals, but what I can tell you is that we’ve made clear to Turkey that we consider the actions that it has undertaken in terms of its announced intentions to begin drilling as provocative and we’ve encouraged Turkey to stop those actions.”
Asked about the way the Statement of Intent on security cooperation that was signed last year between the US and Cyprus is being implemented, Palmer said that there had been a number of developments consistent with the goals and objectives of the statement.
He mentioned the recent the 3+1 meeting in Jerusalem in which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo participated along with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, President Nicos Anastasiades and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the participation of the US in the Argonaut Multinational Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) Exercise that took place recently in Cyprus.
“We continue to discuss ways that we can deepen and strengthen the partnership. The Republic of Cyprus recently sent its first ever defence attaché to the embassy in Washington, so we are working together to ensure that the Statement of Intent is operationalised and practised,” he added.
Asked if he thought it was anachronistic that there is still an US arms embargo on Cyprus, he said that “Cyprus is a strategic partner, an important partner for the United States and we are in the process of taking a look at what may be possible in that area. There is a number of different bills that are circulating on Capitol Hill,” he added, noting that “we’ll see what happens on the Hill.”
In 1987, the US placed restrictions on the transfer of arms and defensive material to Cyprus in an attempt to encourage reunification efforts and avoid an arms race on the island. The government has been trying for many years to see the embargo lifted.
Palmer was on the island to discuss bilateral relations with President Nicos Anastasiades, among them, a bill tabled by US Senators Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio providing among other things lifting the US arms embargo on Cyprus.