Pompeo to Visit Cyprus Amid Eastern Mediterranean Tensions
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will visit Cyprus on Saturday as tensions mount over Turkish energy exploration in contested waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
“The things that are taking place today in the eastern Mediterranean are important,” Pompeo told reporters as his plane headed toward Qatar for long-delayed peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban. “I want to have a chance to talk to the leaders there in Cyprus about their perspective, their objectives.”
Tensions flared in August after Turkey resumed exploration in an area where its claims are contested by Cyprus, and began naval exercises and energy surveys in waters where Turkey and Greece both assert exclusive economic rights. Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, have since deployed their navies to the area, and France has started expanding its military presence there in reaction to Turkey’s steps.
After a meeting hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, seven southern European Union leaders called on Turkey to return to German-led mediation talks or face potential EU sanctions at the end of the month.
“We hope they’ll be real conversations,” Pompeo said, “and we hope the military assets that are there will be withdrawn so that these conversations can take place.”
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week Turkey is ready to enter negotiations with Greece “without preconditions,” but Greece does have a prior demand. It wants the Turkish survey ship to first pull back.
On Washington’s recent decision to ease a decades-old arms embargo on Cyprus, a move condemned by Turkey, Pompeo said “the waiver was a long time coming. We’ve been working on it for a while, it was consistent with American policy for an awfully long time.”
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.