Turkey is calling on the United States to “return to its traditional policy of neutrality” following Mike Pompeo’s visit in Nicosia where he announced an American training facility on the island.
During a surprise visit to Nicosia by US State Secretary Mike Pompeo on Saturday, America’s top diplomat and Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the construction of CYCLOPS, a new training centre to be funded by Washington and built in Cyprus, with construction starting before the current year is out.
According to US officials, the Center for Land, Open-seas, and Port Security will support efforts to curb the proliferation risks posed by malign regional actors and violent extremist organizations. The United States will provide equipment, trainers, and other capacity-building support, while the Republic of Cyprus will contribute land, facilitate travel, and provide trainers.
The training facility will include a number of different hands-on training platforms, including a mock land border crossing, passenger screening area, and a mobile cyber security training lab, which will enable regional partners to learn best practices for securing critical infrastructure and to engage in cross border, counterproliferation cyber investigations.
Pompeo said CYCLOPS will provide expertise for the rest of the region on border security and nonproliferation.
Turkish reaction to CYCLOPS
But the announcement was not well received by Ankara and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who cried foul over Pompeo’s decision not to meet with him during the short stopover.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the MoU “ignored” the Turkish Cypriot side on the island.
“The memorandum of understanding signed between the United States and the Greek Cypriot administration on September 12, 2020 and providing for the creation of a land, high seas and port security center in the Greek Cypriot administration ignores the Turkish Cypriot part,” Aksoy said.
The Turkish official also renewed criticism over a recent lift of a US small arms embargo against Cyprus while calling on Washington to “return to its traditional policy of neutrality towards the island and to contribute to the efforts aimed at solving the Cyprus problem.”
Akinci annoyed over Pompeo's cold shoulder
Prior to Pompeo’s visit, the Turkish Cypriot leader reportedly spoke on the phone with US Ambassador in Nicosia Judy Garber, who called to inform him that Pompeo would not have time to visit the north.
Akinci criticized the decision, telling Garber it was a “serious mistake” according to local media.
“It is a serious error in American diplomacy, which claims it wants to be supportive of solutions to problems, a big blunder and an omission not to have a meeting with the Turkish Cypriot side, an equal partner in Cyprus,” Akinci reportedly told Garber.
Pompeo said CYCLOPS will provide expertise for the rest of the region on border security and nonproliferation
Akinci, who got a heads up two weeks ago from the US Ambassador over the phone regarding Pompeo’s decision to partially lift the arms embargo, remained critical of American diplomacy, saying this would “not encourage the Greek Cypriot side to seek a comprehensive solution” to the Cyprus problem.
When Garber later called to inform Akinci that Pompeo was willing to have a phone conversation, the Turkish Cypriot leader reportedly turned the offer down, according to Akinci’s spokesman Baris Burcu.
Burcu also said Akinci had pointed out to Garber a visit by former secretary John Kerry, in contrast with Pompeo as well as EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borell who also declined to visit but offered a phone call instead.
The spokesman added that a Pompeo-Akinci visit had been planned for early January, when the American top diplomat’s visit to the island was got canceled.
US officials confirmed no arrangements had been made for a visit to the north on Saturday, after Pompeo announced the stopover en route to Qatar where he was present at the Saturday launch of peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan's government.
Knews understands a short window for the Cyprus visit emerged after diplomatic efforts took place behind the scenes, according to media sources, in order to time the peace talks launch in Doha so as not to fall on the same ay with the 9/11 anniversary.