Turkey expressed its disagreement over a US government plan to make International Military Education and Training (IMET) available to Cyprus, saying it does not help resolve the island’s division.
“It is obvious that steps disregarding the balance between the two sides will not help create an atmosphere of trust on the Island, and ensure peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean,” said Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy on Wednesday.
He added that the US decision will “lead to strengthening the intransigent attitude of the Greek Cypriot side.”
IMET is an elite program administered by the US Defense Department, while eligibility is determined by the Secretary of State.
The program provides students from allied and friendly nations training and education on US military practices and standards.
Arksoy’s comments came after a teleconference between the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Palmer and Greek correspondents, during which Palmer said the US is “absolutely concerned” over developments, both off Cyprus and in the Aegean.
Turkey's drilling activities, combined with the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Tripoli government are “counterproductive” and do not contribute to the stability and security of the Eastern Mediterranean, Palmer said.
“We were clear about our expectations in our private and public messages, about how we would expect everyone in the Eastern Mediterranean to behave and support international law and act in a way that favors security. We are quite clear in our discussions with our Turkish partners about our concerns,” he said.
The US official reaffirmed that Washington fully supports the right of Cyprus to conduct hydrocarbon exploration within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), adding that the US recognizes that islands such as Crete have the same EEZ rights as the mainland coast.
Palmer also recalled that Turkey is not a signatory of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and has “different legal interpretations”.
“We had conversations with our Turkish partners about that. But I do know that Turkey’s view, Turkey’s understanding of the legal framework is different than ours; it is different from Cyprus’, different from Greece’s, and different from most countries of the world. That is one of the fundamental underlying challenges and it is something that we will have to work to address with our friends and partners and allies. Trying to manage frictions and tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said.
Referring to the matter of the training of forces of the Republic of Cyprus, Palmer said “this decision does not signal a change in the US position on a Cyprus settlement and the IMET activities will not affect settlement issues.”
“We remain committed to reunify the island as bizonal bicommunal federation, which we continue to believe offers the best chance for the people of Cyprus to have a more peaceful and prosperous future,” he went on to say.
“What we are doing rather is supporting efforts by the UN SG and the representative of the UNSG to take stock of the situation, to identify points of commonality, to the craft terms of reference that could serve as the basis for a renewed dialogue and I think I would focus on the positive nature of American influence on this issue, which is to be supportive of the UN, to be supportive of the Secretary General, to work to encourage progress that would to bring the parties to the table.”