Turkey on Wednesday criticized the United States for the visit of a US naval ship to a port in the divided island of Cyprus, accusing Washington of disrupting “the balance at the expense of the Turkish Cypriot side.”
The island of Cyprus has remained divided since 1974, when Turkey seized the northern third of the island, citing the need to protect the minority Turkish Cypriots after an Athens-supported coup took place.
The USS Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyer made a scheduled port visit to Limassol on Tuesday as part of a NATO patrol mission in the eastern Mediterranean to rein in Russian military activities in the region, sparking Turkey’s discontent. The Turkish foreign ministry, in a statement released late on Wednesday, expressed concern that the US action upsets the balance in the region, particularly to the detriment of the Turkish Cypriot side. Turkey further claimed that the US’s decision damaged its previously maintained neutral position concerning the island.
The visit follows the US’s lifting of a longstanding arms embargo on the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government located in the southern part of the island last year. In response, Turkey pledged to strengthen the defense capabilities of the Turkish Cypriots in the north, a breakaway republic only recognized by Ankara.
The recent friction between Turkey and the United States is occurring less than two weeks before a runoff in Turkey’s presidential election. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who performed better than expected in the initial round but fell slightly short of securing another term, will compete against Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on May 28.
During his two decades in power, Erdoğan has frequently clashed with Washington on various matters, including his procurement of a Russian air-defense system.