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Honoured US senator blasts two-state solution

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The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman said the “retrograde vision” of Turkey to cement Cyprus’ division by striving for a two-state deal “is wrong” for all Cypriots.

Robert Menendez, a Democratic senator, said a peace accord for Cyprus based on two separate states “flies in the face” of UN Security Council resolutions and a decades-old arrangement between Greek and Turkish Cypriot negotiators to reunify Cyprus as a federation.

“The threats to the sovereignty and the future of this nation are still significant.

“President Erdogan’s attempt on implementing a retrograde vision for this country, one based on division, one based on two states, one that flies in the face of the UN Security Council resolutions and consensus developed over the years.

“It is wrong, it is bad for all the people of Cyprus, and it is bad for the region,” said Menendez.

After receiving Cyprus’ highest honour — the Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III — from President Nicos Anastasiades at a ceremony, Menendez said Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots could strike a reunification deal if left to negotiate on their own.

Nearly half a century of U.N.-backed peace talks has failed to produce a mutually acceptable deal.

Turkey contends that talks for a federation-based deal have run their course and that an agreement based on two states is now the only way forward.

Menendez has been a vocal proponent of negotiations and a strident critic of what Greek Cypriots say are Turkey’s attempts to steer the talks toward achieving its ambition for regional control by keeping a permanent troop presence on the island and the right to intervene militarily.

“My goal is to see the last Turkish soldier leave the island,” Menendez said.

Anastasiades decorated Menendez on Monday, during a ceremony at the Presidential Palace, in Nicosia.

He said the honour showed “the feelings of gratitude of the Cypriot people to a world distinguished politician who has significantly contributed to the advancement of human rights, the rule of law and democracy around the world.”

Menendez is also instrumental in strengthening ties between Nicosia and Washington and promoting Eastern Mediterranean Partnership Act between the US, Greece, Israel, and Cyprus.

The Eastern Mediterranean Partnership Act establishes the institutional framework for energy and security cooperation between the USA and the trilateral synergy of Cyprus, Greece, and Israel.

An act through which the US also partially lifted its arms embargo on Cyprus.

Anastasiades expressed appreciation for his “clear condemnation and urging President Joseph Biden to take action given Turkey’s intention to change the status of part of the fenced city of Famagusta.”

He added that the partnership also carries “profound geopolitical meaning”,  significantly enriched through many important initiatives and tangible deliverables in recent years.

Anastasiades referred to the US investment in CYCLOPS, an “excellent regional training centre which brings closer together Cyprus, the United States and other partners, aimed at providing training and expertise in crucial security fields.”

“A tangible sign of trust to the reliable role we have assumed in our volatile neighbourhood.”

Menendez said the Act had taken the US relationship with Cyprus to “a new level” by authorising the removal of restrictions on arms transfers.

He said that while the Trump administration made that removal temporary, “it is past time that we made it permanent.”

The law also established an international military education and training program for the first time with Cyprus, “this is a remarkable step forward.”