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US official sends clear message to Turkey over Cyprus drilling

VASSILIS NEDOS

TAGS: Diplomacy, Energy

In an exclusive interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell has sent a clear message to Ankara not to obstruct drilling for hydrocarbons that is under way in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), while hailing Greece as a “fantastic ally” to the United States in the region.

Speaking in Washington on Friday, a day after the US-Greece Strategic Dialogue, President Donald Trump’s key official on Greek-Turkish affairs and the Eastern Mediterranean said the US regards Greece, as well as Cyprus and Israel, as important allies in the region.

“Greece, Cyprus and Israel are very important countries for the US because they are stable, democratic, western allies in a region where you don’t find a lot of stable, democratic partners,” Mitchell said, adding that it was a “natural step” for the US to deepen its cooperation with all three countries.

He cited energy security and diversification as key goals, as well as keeping a check on “Iranian efforts to open a window for the Mediterranean through Syria.”

He also underlined that Cyprus has the right to develop its resources. “Our line has been consistent. Cyprus is a sovereign country and just like any other sovereign country it has resources and can develop those resources,” Mitchell said.

He added that he hopes Nicosia will “do this in a way that is equitable and brings everybody on board, but ultimately that is a decision for Cyprus, its leaders and its people.” Turkey’s view “is a minority of one versus the rest of the world,” he said. “The rest of the world has a very clear, straightforward view that the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus is grounded in international law.”

Mitchell said the US would “not take a friendly view to any kind of harassment in Cyprus waters especially when US ships are involved,” referring to an incident earlier this year involving a vessel chartered by Italy’s ENI.

As for Greece, Mitchell said it was a “fantastic ally,” supporting US and NATO missions across the region, a frontier state and “one of the most military capable allies.”

Underlining the importance of the military bases at Souda Bay and Larissa to US interests, he also referred to an operation dubbed Atlantic Resolve involving drones operating out of various parts of Greece.

The US-Greece Strategic Dialogue, which took place in Washington last week, is “the most senior, deepest and widest platform we’ve ever had in US-Greek relations,” Mitchell said.

As for the contentious Prespes name deal signed between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mitchell said Washington supports the accord, noting that its enforcement could increase Greece’s economically dominant role in the Balkans.

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