The visit comes as oil and gas companies, including the U.S. firm Noble Energy, are bidding for a chance to explore gas deposits off the southern coast of Cyprus. Turkey, which occupied the northern part of Cyprus in 1974 and doesn't recognize Cyprus as a sovereign country, has responded by holding air and sea military exercises in the area and threatening to retaliate if exploration ramps up.
The Byzantine bickering was on full display two weeks ago when opposition from the ethnic Armenian and Greek lobbies doomed Turkish-backed legislation to facilitate foreign investment in Native American country. Turkish businesses have shown an interest in investing in Native Americans' land, but bill sponsor Tom Cole (R-Okla.) says it would have treated all foreign investors the same.
“The [European Union] member Cypriot government has made strong efforts to bring this ongoing occupation to a peaceful settlement,” Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said on the House floor two weeks ago in opposition to the bill. “The Turkish government from afar continues to push against such peace negotiations by constantly interjecting itself and pressuring the Turkish Cypriots to resist a peaceful settlement for its own military and economic purposes. In fact, Turkey has used its bases in northern Cyprus to harass Israeli merchant vessels peacefully engaged, with the cooperation with the Cypriot government, on oil and gas exploration.”