Reinforcing strategic cooperation with Greece and the Cyprus Republic is "in the interest of the United States", the US State Department official for Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, Yuri Kim, said in statements here on Tuesday.
Speaking at the 35th Session of the International Coordinating Committee "Justice for Cyprus" (PSEKA), she said the inaugural U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue and the signing of a Statement of Intent with Cyprus was a foundation that will decided the framework for upgrading U.S. cooperation with the two countries. Kim noted that the three sides can now work to implement all the "practical aspects" of the cooperation they have agreed.
She said that a visit by Matthew Palmer, the Deputy Assistant Secretary at U.S.Department of State - Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, to Cyprus was taking place in this context and noted that the EastMed Act and the removal of restrictions on the sale of U.S. arms to Cyprus was an issue that had taken on symbolic significance and was therefore emotionally charged.
Kim also pointed to the importance of completing the next "practical steps" for cooperation, which have been decided following an overall review of the Southeast Mediterranean region by U.S. diplomacy.
Commenting on Ankara's decision to proceed with the acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile system, Kim said this was "problematic" and that Turkey hoped to avoid the economic sanctions through a political decision made by U.S. President Donald Trump.
She pointed out that the U.S. has a law, known as CAATSA, and that its implementation was not optional "which we have tried to explain to the Turkish side many times". "Now they may be betting on getting an exception due to the good relations between the two presidents. I am not sure that I would place that bet if I were in their place", Kim said.
On Washington's role in helping to ease tensions between Greece and Turkey, Kim said the State Department had shown quick reflexes and pointed to an announcement calling on Turkey to call off a decision to start drilling within Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone.
This was issued "almost at once" she said, and was sufficiently forceful to satisfy Athens and Nicosia and be taken into account by those in Ankara that needed to hear it.
Outlining the U.S. view, she explained that Washington sees that it has two key NATO allies in the East Mediterranean and, precisely for this reason, is making every possible effort to ease tension and ensure that the two allies do not come into conflict, adding that it was necessary to use exceptional measures to avoid such an outcome.
In light of this, Washington is seeking to play a constructive mediatory role that encourages communication and the effort to establish confidence-building measures between the two countries, Kim said.
"This is why we have so strongly supported the steps taken by Greek governments, some to a greater degree than others, for rapprochement with Ankara," she added, noting that Washington had done the same on the Turkish side, pushing for a "sincere" rapprochement with Greece.
Kim noted that Greek Defence Minister Evangelos Apostolakis, who had played a central role in these efforts, will be coming to Washington during the week. She also acknowledged that there was "a lot of scepticism and cynicism on the ground," concerning CBMs but stressed the need to continue the effort, which noting that the U.S. will continue to put pressure on both sides to avoid a clash between them.
Asked whether she feared an incident between the two sides, Kim said she considered this outcome unlikely.