The United States has decried the visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the recently opened city of Varosha in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus – in violation of United Nations resolutions – as counterproductive and provocative.
“President Erdogan’s recent visit was a step in the wrong direction,” a State Department spokesperson said, adding that the US supports efforts to de-escalate tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and continues to demand dialogue and respect for international law. “The US continues to support a comprehensive solution for the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federation,” the spokesperson said.
Washington’s reaction followed the visit this week by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Istanbul, where he met with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios but not Turkish officials, in an apparent snub which was seen as a clear message regarding his stance toward Ankara.
Apart from the escalation on Cyprus, which also includes Erdogan’s insistence that the island be partitioned as part of a two-state solution, Ankara is also maintaining tensions in the Aegean. The Oruc Reis seismic research vessel continues to sail between the islands of Rhodes and Kastellorizo, based on a navigational advisory, or Navtex, which expires on the night of November 23.
Last night Athens was expecting that the Antalya Hydrographic Service may issue a new Navtex in the coming hours, which would extend the presence of the Oruc Reis in the area by a few more days, a little further east of its current activities.
At the same time, Turkish jets conducted more overflights on Friday over Greek islands in the Aegean. More specifically, four F-16s flew over Agathonisi in the morning, while at noon another pair of F-16s flew over Oinousses and Panagia. It is thought that Friday’s overflights were also an indirect response to the military exercise coordinated by the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) south of Crete.