East Med diplomacy intensifies

East Med diplomacy intensifies

The flurry of diplomatic activity in the Eastern Mediterranean is intensifying in the wake of Turkey’s decision to involve itself yet deeper in the Libya crisis and its effort to create faits accomplis primarily at the expense of Greek, Cypriot and Egyptian interests in the region.

Experts from the Greek Foreign Ministry arrived in Rome on  Monday for talks to examine the possibility of extending an agreement signed by Greece and Italy in 1977 for the demarcation of a continental shelf and the exclusive economic zones of the two countries.

At the same time, Cyprus is preparing for a January 7 visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – part of a tour including Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Pompeo will meet with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and his counterpart Nikos Christodoulides, as well as Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.

A US State Department official Monday described Cyprus as “a force for stability, democracy and prosperity and a valuable US partner in the important region of the Eastern Mediterranean.”

He stressed that the US is working with Cyprus on a wide range of issues, including combating money laundering and terrorism and enhancing maritime and border security. He said that Washington is committed to working with its allies and partners in the Eastern Mediterranean – including Cyprus – to protect stability and prosperity in the region.

The State Department official also reiterated US support for the trilateral scheme comprising Greece, Cyprus and Israel and underscored Washington’s backing for the process to resolve the Cyprus problem based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation model.

The timing of Pompeo’s visit is particularly significant given that it comes on the heels of the passing earlier this month of the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act, which includes the lifting of the 1987 arms embargo on Cyprus.

Christodoulides said the visit will provide the opportunity to discuss a further strengthening of bilateral ties and how Washington can help end Turkey’s illegal acts in the Eastern Mediterranean, which could allow a resumption of reunification talks.

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