US expects ‘further assurances’ that Cyprus’ will deny port access to Russian naval vessels.
The United States expect to see further assurances on the ability of Cyprus to deny port access to Russian naval vessels, according to Clarke Cooper, the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.
He said the move was “necessary” and “part of the Eastern Mediterranean strategy.”
Speaking during a briefing on his recent visit to Greece, Cyprus, and Bulgaria, Cooper said that on October 18-19 he visited Nicosia and had very “productive conversations” with the ministries of foreign affairs and defence.
“We discussed plans to provide educational opportunities to the Republic of Cyprus’s military personnel.
This is through our IMET programme, or the International Military Education and Training programme, and then of course we went into the recently announced expanded access to non-lethal US-origin defence articles and services controlled under the ITAR, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations,” he said.
The US official went on by saying that while in Cyprus, “we made significant progress on anti-money laundering reforms” adding that since the 2013 financial crisis, there has been significant work in that space.
“However, I did specifically note that Cyprus has not yet taken the steps necessary to deny port access to Russian naval vessels. These and other steps are certainly necessary, but they’re also part of the Eastern Mediterranean strategy as well as the Energy Partnership Act of 2019. We certainly want the Republic of Cyprus to pursue in this direction. This would also enable us to further continued access to ITAR-controlled defence articles,” he added.
Cooper also said that before leaving Cyprus, he also paid a visit to the “Zenon” joint rescue coordination centre.
Asked about the lifting of the arms embargo on Cyprus, Cooper said that this had to do with “articles of a limited nature, of a non-kinetic nature” while it also opened up the opportunity for education and training.
“But that said, for us to go further with the Republic of Cyprus, we do need to see further assurances on their ability to deny port access to Russian naval vessels. Those are very honest conversations. We certainly appreciate the legacy nature as to those port calls. We certainly appreciate where there may have been some historic economic interest. But again, moving forward as Cyprus takes a greater role in the Eastern Mediterranean and it takes on greater responsibilities that are supportive of European Union as well as Nato requirements, we do need to be more interoperable with them, and that does require addressing the portage issue” Cooper said. “Once we get there, I think we maybe will be able to address some further opportunity” he added.
The US official assured that there is certainly desire in the United States to proceed. “It is why, when we look at the Eastern Mediterranean Security Act as well as the Energy Partnership Act of 2019, why Cyprus factors in that space and why we are looking to have a closer relationship with them bilaterally and multilaterally” he said.
To another question about Turkey, he said that “of course we want to keep in the West. They have a role in the alliance. But we also don’t abide by any provocations from Ankara to allies and partners.”
Cooper said that the US had “discouraged any provocative behaviour.”
“We have encouraged that Turkey and Greece and Turkey and Cyprus be able to de-escalate for a number of reasons: One, on a practical level we certainly want to avoid any kind of particular accident that could occur with so much traffic and potential risk” and from a Nato standpoint, using Nato channels to actually work to de-escalate, he said. “It is to no one’s benefit, including Turkey’s, for there to be an escalation in this space” Cooper underlined.