Turkey vows to take counter steps after US lifts arms embargo on Greek Cyprus
Turkey vowed to take the necessary counter steps to guarantee the security of the Turkish Cypriots in case if the U.S. does not reconsider its decision to lift the arms embargo on the Greek Cyprus, the Turkish foreign ministry said in a written statement.
The U.S. decision to partially lift an arms embargo on the Greek Cypriots, poisoning hopes for peace in the eastern Mediterranean, is incompatible with the spirit of alliance, the ministry said late on Sept. 1.
The decision ignores the equality and balance between the two peoples on the island, said Ankara. It will definitely hurt efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue, it added.
The ministry stressed that at a time of ongoing efforts to reduce tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, the U.S. making such a decision is incompatible with the spirit of alliance.
“We expect the U.S. to reconsider its decision and support existing efforts to establish peace and stability in the region,” it said.
“Otherwise, Turkey, as a guarantor country, will take the necessary decisive counter steps to guarantee the security of the Turkish Cypriot people, in line with its legal and historical responsibilities,” read the statement.
In a series of tweets, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay also slammed the U.S. moves.
“We as Turkey will continue to take steps to guarantee peace and prosperity against this kind of approach, which will increase the risk of conflict in the region,” Oktay wrote.
Turkey, as a guarantor country for Cyprus, will resolutely take the necessary steps to guarantee the security of Turkish Cypriots in accordance with its legal and historical responsibility, the ministry highlighted.
Washington imposed an embargo on the Island in 1987 intending to prevent an arms race and encourage a peaceful settlement between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
“The Republic of Cyprus is a key partner in the eastern Mediterranean. I am pleased to announce that we are deepening our security cooperation. We will waive restrictions on the sale of non-lethal defense articles and services to the Republic of Cyprus for the coming fiscal year,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on Sept.1.
The U.S. decision comes amid mounting tensions in the eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece over potential hydrocarbon resources in the region based on conflicting claims on the extent of their continental shelves.
Following the forcible 1963 division of the island of Cyprus by the Greek Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots suffered under a campaign of ethnic violence.
In 1974, following a coup aimed at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was founded.
For many decades, there were talks to resolve the dispute, all of which failed. The latest, held with the participation of the guarantor countries, Turkey, Greece and the U.K., ended in 2017 in Switzerland.
Turkish Cyprus slams the US
Meanwhile, top officials of the Turkish Cyprus also slammed the U.S. arms embargo decision. Speaking to U.S. ambassador to Greek Cyprus Judith Gail Garber by phone, Turkish Cyprus President Mustafa Akıncı said the decision “was not a step in the right direction,” according to a statement from the presidential office.
In the phone conversation initiated by Garber, Akıncı said that the decision would not encourage the Greek side to reach a comprehensive solution in Cyprus and would not serve peace, but on the contrary, would help the Greek side stay away from the negotiation table.
Akıncı underlined that it is necessary not to contribute to armament efforts in Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean but to facilitate dialogue and reconciliation.
Pompeo calls for reduction in tensions in eastern Mediterranean
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Sept. 2 for Turkey and Greece to reduce tensions over disputed maritime rights and gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
"We’re urging everyone to stand down to reduce tensions and begin to have diplomatic discussions" about security and energy, Pompeo said. "It is not useful to increase military tensions in the region."