Biden in Cyprus on historic meeting, “peace is always possible”
20 May, 2014
Vice President Joe Biden arrived on a historical two-day visit to Cyprus on Wednesday, declaring that he did not have a solution to the island’s problem in his back pocket, nor was the US going to impose one, but that “peace is always possible” and that “I believe this time can be different.”
Allaying fears that Washington would succumb to pressure from its military ally, Turkey, Biden said that the US recognises only one legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus and that his two-day visit and his meetings will not change that.
Arriving from Romania, Biden said Cyprus can and should be the bedrock of stability and opportunity for Europe and Eastern Mediterranean.
In his remarks, Biden said he had been looking forward to this visit for a long time, since being elected to the US Senate in 1973. He acknowledged that he is the first US Vice President to be in Cyprus since Lyndon Johnson visited “this beautiful island”.
Biden said he is on the island at the invitation of President Nicos Anastasiades and the government of the Republic of Cyprus. “And I wanted to come to primarily underscore the value the US attaches to our growing cooperation. This relationship is now a genuine strategic partnership. And it holds even greater promise”, he said, addressing Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides who greeted him and Jill Biden amid unprecedented security measures.
Biden said he looks forward to his talks on Thursday with President Anastasiades “to discuss a shared agenda. Cyprus’ growing leadership in the eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus’ support for the mission to eliminate chemical weapons from Syria and help prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Its role in Europe and in the regional energy security. And our continued cooperation on search and rescue, crisis response and counter-terrorism”.
The US Vice President said the two will also discuss events in Ukraine, adding “we have to be resolute and united in the face of Russian intervention”.
Biden touched upon the economic problems Cyprus has faced in the last year, noting “I know that the Cypriot people have faced tough economic challenges and have already made painful sacrifices”.
He said he is pleased to see the government “to make good on the progress of economic reform” and he believes that “the economy is beginning to turn a corner and we look forward to work with you to deepen our trade involvement and restore growth and prosperity”.
Turning his attention to the Cyprus problem, Buiden said “an important focus of our conversations will be the settlement process. I look forward to meeting with the leaders of both communities".
Biden remarked that it “is long past time, 40 years, that all Cypriots are reunited, in a bizonal, bicommunal federation” and that he has been encouraged by the steps that have recently been taken with the joint declaration on February 11 by Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, the visit of the Greek Cypriot negotiator in Ankara and the Turkish Cypriot negotiator to Athens.
“Support from the international community and the seriousness of purpose we have seen in this process so far. After so many rounds of talks, and so many years of stalemate, it’s legitimate to ask a question whether this time can be any different”.
In that respect, he said, he is encouraged to hear of the joint initiative from Cypriot political, civic and business leaders and historic religious services and dialogue and the restoration of sacred sites throughout the island.
“Many of you know that I have been personally following events in Cyprus for more than 40 years, long enough to know that only Cypriots can decide on a vision for your future, and only Cypriots can exercise the courage necessary to make that vision real. Imagine what can happen if you make sure that this time is different. That this time a solution is reached. It would mean incredibly greater prosperity, greater security, and a future of limitless possibilities for a generation free from the straight jacket that decades of division have imposed upon this island. This island can and should be the bedrock of stability and opportunity for Europe and Eastern Mediterranean”, he said.
The Vice President and his entourage were whisked off to the coastal town of Limassol ahead of a packed scheduled Thursday. Joe and Jill Biden were hosted during an informal dinner at President and Andri Anastasiades’ home in Limassol.
The Cyprus News Agency said that the dinner was of social nature without however ruling out the possibility of the two men discussing other issues ahead of their formal meeting on Thursday.
The dinner lasted about two hours and ended at around 9.30pm.
The Vice President will be officially received by President Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace on Thursday morning where the two will hold a bilateral meeting and after an official lunch will make remarks to the press.
Earlier in the day, he will meet with interfaith leaders and Archbishop Chrysostomos II. In the afternoon, the US Vice President will head to the Turkish occupied north for a meeting at the residence of Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu. He will hold a reception with members of the Civic Forum and will host dinner with political party leaders from both sides of the divide. Biden will make a press statement at the end of his talks, before departing from Cyprus.