US President-Elect Joe Biden’s top priority will be dealing with the pandemic at home, tensions over trade wars with China and the EU coming second but Cyprus will also be somewhere in the big picture.
Cypriot politicians are hoping that a new Biden administration will show a keen interest in many foreign policy priorities, including the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, and consequently the Cyprus problem.
Having served as Ambassador of Cyprus to the US, former Foreign Affairs Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis expects to see significant changes occurring under the Biden-Harris administration, in favour of Cyprus.
“The period of the strong friendship and mutual admiration between Presidents Erdogan and Trump, that gave Erdogan a blank check to act the way he wanted in the region, are forever gone,” the veteran diplomat told the Financial Mirror.
She believes Biden will have a different approach towards Turkey, not allowing Ankara to behave as the neighbourhood troublemaker.
Biden is expected to take a stronger stance and make Turkey’s unilateral actions in the Eastern Mediterranean liable to consequences.
Kozakou-Marcoullis said Cyprus would be part of new US foreign policy which Biden formulates based on his pledge for multilateralism and strong cooperation with allies like the EU on key global goals, including climate change, global security, COVID-19, China and Iran.
She said Cyprus found itself in a tight spot during the last four years, as transatlantic relations suffered a heavy blow due to President Trump’s policies with trade being one of the most contentious issues in EU-US relations.
She said Washington’s influence on a Cyprus peace push “will depend on what we want the US to do… We must be convincing that we seek a federal solution and want the United States to contribute towards achieving this goal”.
Commenting on US-EU relations, Member of the European Parliament for AKEL Niyazi Kizilyurek said that outgoing President Donald Trump has entered into trade wars not only with traditional enemies but also traditional allies such as Brussels.
“Trade wars, with the imposition of higher tariffs on imported European goods, have soured relations with the EU and have taken the long-standing transatlantic partnership back.”
Kizilyurek, also a Professor of Turkish Studies, said that Biden’s victory, or rather Trump’s defeat is significant for the European Union and its future.
“It is very important for the bloc that Trump has lost. Let us not forget about former White House adviser Steve Bannon’s attempts to export President Donald Trump’s brand of populism to Europe and his calls for an end to the European Union,” Kizilyurek told the Financial Mirror.
On US relations with Turkey, Kizilyurek said that Biden has been following Turkish politics and is no fan of Turkey’s political leadership.
“Although he is not expected to handle relations himself, as Democrats have a more institutionalised way of forming foreign policy, he has at times expressed his discontent with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has even called for him to be ousted through democratic means.”
The MEP did say that America under Biden will be looking to push Turkey down a path of democratisation, bringing the country closer to the west, and further from Russia’s embrace.
“He will also want to restore damage inflicted by the Trump administration on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), addressing friction between Greece and Turkey, in an effort to de-escalate tensions between the two NATO allies.
“A new era in transatlantic partnership under Biden is on the cards,” said Kizilyurek.
Biden is no stranger to Cyprus
Former Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said that a Biden administration would pay attention to improving relations with Turkey, which had their ups and downs with Trump.
“There will at least be an effort made to better relations at the level of the State Department and the Pentagon. I would not be surprised to see US relations with Turkey improving under Biden,” Kasoulides told the Financial Mirror.
Kasoulides also noted that he expected to see US relations with its allies in the European Union improving significantly.
“Trump had taken shots at the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the French President Emanuel Macron and dragged the Union into a trade war with the US”.
He noted that Cyprus would also benefit from the end of the EU-US trade war to the extent that it is affected by treaties between the Union and the States.
Regarding the Cyprus problem, Kasoulides said that he did not expect big changes.
“Cyprus did indeed have good relations with the US during the Trump administration. The US had utilised Cyprus’ alliance with Israel as a counterweight to Turkey who has not been a loyal ally over the past years.”
“In any case, Cyprus can feel safer with Biden at the wheel of the US, if Turkey decides to make a move against us.
“Biden has a good command of the Cyprus problem, whereas Trump did not. He has always spoken in favour of Cyprus since the beginning of his political career.”
Kasoulides reminded that Biden has served for many years in the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, having had a close relationship with the Greek and Cypriot American communities and has first-hand experience of the Cyprus problem.
Biden visited Cyprus as US Vice-President in 2014, he was the first to do so since Lyndon Johnson, 52 years before him.
During his visit, Biden met with President Nicos Anastasiades and then Turkish Cypriot leader Dervish Eroglou in an attempt to push peace talks along.
Biden had then said that “Cyprus can be a growing force for peace, prosperity and stability in the eastern Mediterranean that would benefit us all.”