Ankara has again criticised Washington for anchoring the US destroyer USS Arleigh Burke in Cyprus, saying it disrupts efforts to reunify the island.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said, “Steps taken in the region by the US disrupt the balance at the expense of the Turkish Cypriot side, damage that country’s long-standing neutral position, and pose an obstacle to a just, sustainable, and lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue.
“We invite the US to reconsider these policies”.
It said Turkey would continue to “resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriots under all circumstances and conditions”.
Cypriot Defence Minister, Michalis Giorgallas, said the guided-missile destroyer docking at Limassol port proves Cyprus’ strong position in the region.
The US Navy said in its press release that “Cyprus is an important regional partner” and that “strengthening partnerships during the port visit builds enduring relationships and demonstrates a common commitment to ensuring maritime security and regional stability, which is shared across all regional allies and partners.”
The ship has an array of missiles that can engage aircraft, submarines, other surface ships and even ballistic missiles in outer space.
“We’re thrilled to visit Cyprus,” said Cmdr: Pete Flynn, commanding officer of Arleigh Burke.
“This is an important step in the strategically important Eastern Mediterranean.
“The incredible natural beauty, warm reception, and fascinating history make this a visit we will not soon forget,” he added.
The ship’s port visit follows its recent northbound transit through the Suez Canal, following operations in the US Fifth Fleet area of operations.
“I could not be prouder of our crew for their resiliency, positivity and ability to adapt to changing requirements to achieve mission success not only in the 6th Fleet but now in the 5th Fleet AOR,” said Command Master Chief (CMDCM) Rafael Barney.
Arleigh Burke is on its third patrol in the US Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) area of operations as a member of the Forward Deployed Naval Forces-Europe (FDNF-E).
The ship began to patrol on February 2, departing from its homeport of Naval Station Rota, Spain.
It has operated in the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Arctic Circle, Eastern Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and Red Sea.
It is one of four US Navy destroyers based at Naval Station Rota and assigned to Commander Task Force 65 in support of NATO’s Integrated Air Missile Defense architecture.
In April, the nuclear-powered submarine USS San Juan docked in the port of Limassol in Cyprus.
Distance from Russia
The visits illustrate the importance that Cyprus’ government puts on its relationship with the US and the value Washington sees in the island amid rising activity — and tensions — in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Nicosia has been moving away from Russia and pursuing a closer relationship with the US.
In 2019, Congress voted to increase energy cooperation with Cyprus and other countries in the region.
And the US has since lifted its arms embargo on weapons exported to Cyprus.
Cyprus has expanded its military exchanges with the US, including formalising its relationship with the New Jersey National Guard under the US’s State Partnership Program in March.
That agreement allows Cypriots to engage in various training and joint exercises on issues ranging from counterterrorism to emergency response.
Cypriot and American units have already conducted joint exercises, and the US is training Ukrainian troops on the island.
Nicosia has also undone some of its ties to Russia.
Following Moscow’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022, it scrapped the 2015 deal to grant Russian navy ships access and barred them from its ports.
— U.S. Embassy Cyprus (@USEmbassyCyprus) May 16, 2023