Aport visit by a U.S. submarine to the Greek Cypriot part of the divided island of Cyprus angered Türkiye. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement and criticized U.S. steps “encouraging the Greek Cypriot administration of southern Cyprus to arm itself further,” adding that it did not contribute to regional stability.
“As we have repeatedly emphasized together with the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), the steps taken by the U.S. at the expense of disrupting the balance on the Island of Cyprus and encouraging the Greek Cypriot administration’s armament do not contribute in any way to regional stability or to a just, sustainable and lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue,” a ministry statement said. Türkiye strongly supports the statement made by the TRNC Foreign Ministry on the recent anchoring of a U.S. attack submarine at a Greek Cypriot port and the armament activities of the Greek Cypriot administration, it added. “We once again call on the U.S. to reconsider these policies. We reiterate that Türkiye will continue to defend the rights and interests of the TRNC under all circumstances and conditions, within the framework of the responsibility stemming from our guarantor status,” the statement read.
The TRNC earlier condemned the U.S. for anchoring the attack submarine. However, the Turkish Cypriot Foreign Ministry said that the Greek Cypriot administration continues to disrupt the island’s stability, peace and the Eastern Mediterranean by increasing arms purchases. “We strongly condemn the docking of the USS San Juan attack submarine at a Greek Cypriot seaport,” it added. “We repeatedly state that the removal of the arms sales restrictions imposed by the U.S. on the Greek Cypriot administration and subsequent steps that will endanger the security of the Turkish Cypriot people will encourage the Greek Cypriot administration to take up arms.” Citing pledges by Michalis Giorgallas, the Greek Cypriot administration’s defense minister, to buy U.S. weapon systems, the statement said such developments show that the U.S. is helping the Greek Cypriot administration systematically arm itself. According to the U.S. Defense Department, the USS San Juan docked at the southern Cypriot port of Limassol on April 3. According to the local media, Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Christodoulides visited the sub on Thursday.
Despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the U.N. to achieve a comprehensive settlement, Cyprus has been mired in a decadeslong dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Ethnic attacks in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety. In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation of the island led to Türkiye’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the TRNC was founded in 1983. It has recently seen an on-and-off peace process, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Türkiye, Greece and the U.K. The Greek Cypriot administration was admitted to the EU in 2004, the same year Greek Cypriots thwarted a U.N. plan to end the longstanding dispute.