During an official visit to Athens, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Turkey’s illegal drilling for gas in Cypriot waters.
It comes after Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, urged the United States to use its influence to defuse tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
Relations between Cyprus and Turkey have been strained due to a dispute over offshore rights. In July, Ankara sent a ship, Yavuz, to drill close to the Cypriot shore in an area that had already been licensed to French company, TOTAL, and Italian company, ENI, for drilling. It was the second Turkish ship to drill close to Cyprus.
Pompeo spoke about “rules” governing energy exploration in the Mediterranean Sea.
“We’ve told the Turks that illegal drilling is unacceptable and we’ll continue to take diplomatic actions to ensure that lawful activity takes place,” he said. “No country can hold Europe hostage.”
Pompeo was in Greece to renew an updated defense cooperation pact between Washington and Athens. The deal allows for a stronger US military presence in central and northern Greece, and its renewal is seen as a sign of the continued US interest in the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean.
However, his visit was also met by protests from Greek leftist parties unhappy about the pact. They marched to the American embassy and waved banners that said “Pompeo go home”. There were minor scuffles between protesters and police.