With Greece monitoring Turkey’s next moves with regard to the two Greek soldiers that it detained last week, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Thursday, in a clear nod to Ankara, that he wants peace and cooperation on the domestic level and in “the fragile neighborhood in Southeastern Europe.”
His comments were also made against a backdrop of escalating tensions between Cyprus and Turkey over gas rights in the Eastern Mediterranean that prompted the US State Department to say Thursday that Washington’s policy regarding Nicosia’s rights within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is “longstanding and has not changed.”
“The United States recognizes the right of the Republic of Cyprus to develop its resources in its exclusive economic zone,” a US State Department statement said, adding that it continues to believe that the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, “should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement.” Last month, Turkish warships prevented a rig from approaching Block 3 of the island’s EEZ, while Ankara has issued a string of threats against Nicosia if it seeks to exploit natural resources “unilaterally” or ignores the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
“We discourage any actions or rhetoric that increase tensions in the region,” the State Department said as the American Sixth Fleet began naval exercises with Israel in the Eastern Mediterranean which are expected to coincide with drilling in Cyprus’s EEZ by an ExxonMobil vessel which is on its way to the region. Turkey has said that it will continue to defend its rights in the region.