Duvar English – Reuters

Turkey said early on Sept. 14 that the United States needed to return to a neutral stance on Cyprus, after Washington and Nicosia signed a memorandum of understanding to create a training centre.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month that the United States would lift a 33-year arms embargo on Cyprus and deepen its security cooperation with Nicosia.

During a visit to Cyprus, Pompeo said on Sept. 12 that Washington remained “deeply concerned” about Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean, where it is at a standoff with Greece and Cyprus over maritime areas thought to be rich in natural gas.

“We remain deeply concerned about Turkey’s ongoing operations searching for natural resources in areas over which Greece and Cyprus assert jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Pompeo said.

“The memorandum of understanding will not serve peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean and will damage the solution of the Cyprus problem,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said.

It added that the recent steps by the United States increased the tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

“We invite the U.S. to return to the neutrality policy it traditionally follows on the island of Cyprus and to contribute to the efforts aimed at the solution of the Cyprus issue,” the ministry said.

The eastern Mediterranean island was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Its internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government represents the whole island in the European Union, although its authority is effectively confined to the southern part. North Cyprus is a Turkish Cypriot state recognised only by Ankara.

Turkey has sent two survey vessels to separate areas in the region, drawing strong protests from both Cyprus and Greece, which say Ankara is operating on their respective continental shelves.

Turkey says it has a legitimate claim over the area. There is no agreement between Greece and Turkey delimiting their continental shelves, while Turkey disputes any claims by Cyprus, with which it has no diplomatic relations.

During Pompeo’s visit, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said that the dispute should be resolved through “dialog and not by gun-boat diplomacy.”

He also called on Turkey to stop its “aggressive provocative actions” in order to restart Cyprus’s reunification talks.

“Unlawful activities, despite repeated calls on Ankara to refrain from provocative actions, should be immediately terminated,” he added.

On the U.S.’s recent decision to partially lift a decades-long arms embargo on Cyprus, 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.”

“Regional cooperation is necessary for durable energy security,” he added.