Cyprus is poised to become a key player in the Eastern Mediterranean, transforming the region into a new global hub for natural gas, US Vice President Joe Biden said after official talks in Nicosia with President Nicos Anastasiades.
“Your economy is now turning a corner, you are emerging as a leader in the region and Cyprus is poised to become a key player,” Bidden said, recalling the US exit from recession and that Cyprus is also weathering tough economic times following “painful reforms.”
“You are uniquely situated at a critical time in modern history. So it should be no surprise that the best days are ahead for Cyprus as well,” he said.
US-based Noble Energy was the first company to be granted an oil and gas exploration license in the Cyprus offshore fields near Israel and has reported satisfactory natural gas reserves, the exports of which could be attractive to eastern Europe that wants to reduce its reliance on Russian LNG supplies.
The US Vice President, visiting the island on a historical trip, referred to the cooperation between his country and Cyprus on the biggest issues of the day, such as combating terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons, the prevention of Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon and responding to Russian intervention in Ukraine.
“This is not just a strategic partnership, it is a growing partnership,” he added.
Biden repeated Washington’s pledge to help find a solution to the island’s 40-year division and stressed that a settlement that would reunite Cyprus as a bi-zonal bi-communal federation is possible and added, “the US stands prepared to provide any assistance that we can toward you accomplishing that end.”
“And think about where we can go if we can free the next generation from the conflicts of the past. Once that is done there is simply no limit to what Cyprus can achieve and to what this partnership between Cyprus the US can achieve,” he concluded.
In his comments after a banquet at the presidential palace, Anastasiades said that Cyprus counts on the US to secure its sovereign rights to explore and exploit its natural resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone and on its assistance in order to find a solution to the Cyprus issue.
Referring to Biden’s visit, he called it “a landmark visit of real historical significance, as it constitutes the first by a US Vice President since 1962: aptly demonstrating the significant improvement in the partnership between Cyprus and the United States”.
A partnership, he added, “which we can now call strategic”.
Anastasiades also thanked Biden “for your clear remarks upon your arrival to Cyprus yesterday which reaffirm the United States’ longstanding and unwavering position as regards the recognition of only the Republic of Cyprus and its lawful government”.
A position which irrespective of any of your visits during your stay in Cyprus remains unchanged, he added.
President Anastasiades stressed that “we remain committed to working tirelessly for a solution that will safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots – Greek and Turkish Cypriots.”
“The package proposal I have put forward contains all those elements that create a win-win situation and can be a game-changer”, he said referring to his proposal for the return, inter alia of the fenced off part of the city of Famagusta, known as Varosha, which remains uninhabited since the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island.
President Anastasiades expressed hope that “Turkey, which has a most decisive role to play in the Cyprus problem, will adopt a productive stance, not only as regards the implementation of confidence building measures, but especially towards the aim of reaching a settlement”.
Later, Biden had a separate meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu in the north, which took place without the pomp that had been expected and low key in the absence of flags and symbols of the breakaway statelet in the north that only Turkey recognises, shunning the Republic of Cyprus.
Biden, Anastasiades and Eroglu were to meet for a joint dinner, together with UN mission leader in Cyprus, Lisa Buttenheim, who has been coordinating peace talks since they resumed on a fresh footing in February.
Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said that the Biden visit was “crucial” in the upgrading of bilateral ties between the US and Cyprus, especially in developing strategic alliances in the region – political, economic and on energy.
The spokesman the results will bear fruit in the not too distant future and the dialogue for an enhanced strategic cooperation with the US will continue at all levels.
Even the head of the Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos II called on Joe Biden’s support, in order, he said, to avoid an unbalanced solution of the Cyprus problem.
After a meeting in the presence of all religious leaders, including the Turkish Cypriot mufti, the Archbishop said he explained the position of the Church on the Cyprus problem, along its “red lines”. Biden pledged from his part to assume a ‘useful role’, while expressing his aspiration for a just Cyprus solution.
The Archbishop added that religious leaders pledged to work together, in order for Christians and Muslims alike to be able to visit their religious sites in both sides of the divide.
Present at the meeting were the Turkish Cypriot Grand Mufti Talip Ataly, Catholic Maronite Archbishop Josef Soueif, Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Varoujan Herkelian and the Roman Catholic Church representative to Cyprus father Zakheos Toulninof.
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