ANKARA — Turkey criticized the United States Thursday over US warships anchoring at a port in Cyprus.
In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry accused Washington of disrupting the balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean. “The steps taken in the region by the US which disrupt the balance at the expense of the Turkish Cypriot side damage [United States's] long-standing neutral position,” the statement read, adding, “We invite the US to reconsider these policies.”
The island has been ethnically divided between Turkish and Greek Cypriots since a Greek military coup and Turkey’s military intervention in 1974. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Ankara, while the Greek-controlled Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognized.
The US destroyer USS Arleigh Burke is docked at Cyprus’ main Limassol port, according to The Associated Press.
Thursday's statement marks the second of its kind since the beginning of this year. The United States’ increasing military presence in the region and particularly in Greece since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 has drawn the ire of Turkey. Ankara accuses Washington of abandoning its balanced position in disputes between Turkey and Greece. Washington dismisses the criticism, arguing that its military presence in the region is intended to curb the Russian military influence in the region in the face of the Ukraine war.
Along with conflicting territorial claims in the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean, the Cyprus issue remains a longstanding source of tension between NATO partners Greece and Turkey. Both Turkey and Greece along with the United Kingdom are guarantor powers of Cyprus under a treaty that granted independence to the island in 1960.
“We wish to emphasize once again that [Turkey], as a guarantor state in Cyprus, will continue to resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriots under all circumstances and conditions,” Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in its Thursday statement.
Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule had initially backed a UN-brokered peace process to settle the Cyprus conflict. Yet a unification referendum held on the island was rejected by a majority of Greek Cypriots. In a nationalist shift over the past decade, Erdogan has changed his position in Cyprus and is now backing a two-state solution to the conflict.