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Smart diplomacy is unbeatable

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The recognition this week of US Senator Bob Menendez, a true friend of Cyprus and one of the few vocal critics of Ankara in Washington DC, with the Order of Makarios III, was long overdue.

The senator from New Jersey is an ardent supporter of a just solution to the Cyprus problem, based on UN resolutions and frameworks, calling for a more proactive engagement of the US government.

At the same time, he has offered a pragmatic approach to achieve the reunification of the island’s two communities, based on Cyprus’ importance in the regional geopolitical and energy spheres.

However, relying on just one voice on Capitol Hill is not enough, as impactful as that might be.

There is no doubt that having the chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee on your side is a major morale booster, especially when you are the weaker side in a conflict, as much as justice may be on your side.

On some occasions in the past, we almost lost the senator’s support over short-sightedness and lack of political seriousness.

But this was rescued by the small yet influential lobby of Cypriots and Greeks living in the US.

There are other members of Congress who, too, continue to strive for a fair solution to the island’s division, and they, too, must be acknowledged.

Once again, Cyprus relies reactively on the goodwill of friends in powerful places.

Yet, these friends may have other agendas, while their patience may be running thin in some instances.

Cyprus has a lot going for it at the moment and has dynamically engaged with neighbours in a basketful of trilateral or other agreements and cooperation.

But as long as Cyprus offers little more, in what is usually a give-and-take among friends, then we cease to be a priority.

Neighbours often incorporate Cyprus armed forces in military, naval or search and rescue drills, which does not say the Republic will have full-fledged support in the case of further aggression by the neighbourhood bully.

Cyprus has not even decided what it plans to do with its defensive weapons programme when ‘friendly’ Israel is selling its drone and anti-drone weaponry to Azerbaijan, with that technology ending up in the hands of Turkish developers.

With President Anastasiades taking a back step in wanting to resolve the Cyprus issue, even experimenting with ideas proposed by hardliners, our foreign policy seems to have been put on the back burner as well, with little regard for what is happening in the greater region, even as far as Afghanistan.

The EU’s failure to help restore calm and democracy in Syria over the years exacerbated the refugee crisis, resulting in Turkey taking the upper hand and using this humanitarian issue like a faucet to pry more funds from Brussels, supposedly to shelter these refugees.

Though a small nation, Cyprus is in a unique position to serve the interests of some of our closest allies, from the EU and the US to Israel and Egypt.

The earlier we realise what we can offer, the sooner we will regain the true friendship of our neighbours and long-term supporters, be they in Berlin, Brussels, or Washington.

Watching as a bystander is no longer an option, as the demise of Cyprus reunification efforts has proven.