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Biden’s visit to Cyprus – An event of immense importance

31 May, 2014 | Posted By: Andrestinos Papadopoulos

By Dr. Andrestinos N. Papadopoulos, Ambassador a.h.

Fifteen months of hard work by the Foreign Ministry, on the instructions of President Anastasiades, within the framework of his pro-American policy, had as a result the historic visit to the Republic of Cyprus of the VP of the United States, Joe Biden, the first after that of Lyndon Johnson, 52 years ago. In this respect, VP Biden thanked President Anastasiades for “his cooperation and for his efforts to build a genuine strategic partnership with the United States, a partnership that holds even greater promise in the future.” More important than this statement is the fact that the United States really mean it.
Apart the good climate which exists in the US-Cyprus relations, there is the US interest in the developments in the eastern Mediterranean. The instability which prevails in the region from Libya to Syria, the discovery of hydrocarbons and the events in Ukraine projected the role of Cyprus as a factor of stability in the eastern Mediterranean, in particular as a link in the triangle Athens-Nicosia-Tel-Aviv. Moreover, the United States, aiming at securing stability in the region, are interested to promote, within the framework of their wider energy policy, the cooperation between Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, due to the fact that the hydrocarbons of the region are not enough.
As the US VP put it, “Cyprus can be a growing force for peace, prosperity and stability in the eastern Mediterranean that would benefit us all.” This upgraded role for Cyprus has an economic dimension as well, since it will attract investments and create new opportunities to reduce unemployment.
The pinnacle of Biden’s visit was his statement upon arrival at Larnaca airport by which he made clear that “the United States … recognise only one legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus and my visit and meetings throughout the island will not change that. It is my personal position, it’s the position of the Unites States of America and it’s the position of the entire world, save one country.” The message was abundantly clear to both the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey. The reference to the legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus echoes UN Security Council Resolution 541 of 18 November 1983, which considers the declaration of the pseudo state “as legally invalid” and calls upon all states “not to recognise any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus.” Within the framework of this position the Republic of Cyprus was upgraded, while the pseudo state was downgraded, since the meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader took place at his residence without symbols of the pseudo state and without any protocol implying the existence of a state.
The message to Turkey was that she should hold back from efforts to upgrade the pseudostate at every occasion. As a good diplomat, VP Biden, who knows the Cyprus problem in depth, met the Turkish Cypriot leader, knowing that only through dialogue with the two sides to a dispute can you achieve results. Avoiding name-calling in respect to Turkey, which is the only country to have recognised the pseudo state, was a purposeful move. Solution of the Cyprus problem without the consent of Turkey is impossible.
It should be mentioned that Turkey’s stand had caused inconvenience to the US on many occasions in the past. That was the case with Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Israel, Armenia, etc. Knowing, also, that this moment the Cyprus problem is not high at the priorities of Turkey and if a solution is not found now she will lose the train, VP Biden showed the said diplomacy, since the next step would be to turn towards Ankara for a change in her stance.
The meetings of VP Biden with the religious leaders, business people and members of the civic society were aimed at giving authority to the rapprochement efforts and confirming the will of the United States to help find a solution and put an end to the Turkish occupation. Some expressed concern at the visit of the VP and the strengthening of our relations with the United States, for which Ambassador John Koenig has worked tirelessly. They should know that our relations with other countries are not harmed because of that. The proof is to be found in the forthcoming visits of Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meskov, Spain’s PM Mariano Rajoy and France’s Francois Hollande.
Concluding we retain the following:
- There was considerable progress in the strengthening and deepening of the bilateral relations of the two countries.
- The US VP had a first hand-experience of Turkish intransigence, when the question of Famagusta CBMs was discussed.
- In view of the provocative attitude of Turkey vis-à-vis Cyprus’ EEZ, the sovereign rights of Cyprus in its EEZ have been recognised. Moreover, the VP described Cyprus as a “key player” in the wider region.
- The deepening of a personal relationship between President Anastasiades and VP Biden will have beneficial consequences for Cyprus, if we take into account that VP Biden might be the next US President, if he is proposed by his party and wins the elections.
- There was understanding of the problems the Cyprus economy might encounter, in case of further new sanctions against Russia.
Last but not least. As the limousine of the US VP was heading towards Larnaca airport at the end of the visit, those who mentally were looking at the two flags on the car waving in the breeze were conscious of the symbolism which was denoting that the strategic partnership between the two countries was inscribed with golden letters on history’s parchment.