WASHINGTON

The US welcomed Wednesday recent efforts to tamp down tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, voicing optimism that the status quo can lead to a resolution of ongoing disputes. 

Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US has watched with concern the actions taken in the eastern Mediterranean, stressing that energy and territorial disputes be resolved “peacefully, diplomatically, not military and certainly not through provocative actions.”

“Now I think one of the positive developments has been in recent weeks a significant diminution in the temperature on those issues with Turkey engaged with the European Union, and others to try to move forward in a more productive way,” he said. “So we’re very supportive of that, and we’ll continue to try to help things advance in that direction.”

The comments come as Turkey and Greece prepare for a second round of exploratory talks this year aimed at finding solutions to disputes regarding the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean seas.

The next round of consultative talks between the countries will be held in Athens on March 16-17, and are expected to focus on bilateral disputes, including maritime boundaries and drilling rights in the region.

Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, saying the claims are excessive and violate the sovereign rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots.

Turning to Cyprus, Blinken reiterated US support for a lasting resolution that reunifies the island as a “a bi-zonal bi-communal federation.”

“We will engage in the effort to advance that prospect, including supporting the critical role of the United Nations, and as well, direct American engagement in that effort,” he said. “You’ll see American diplomacy fully engaged.”

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