Cyprus Mail

INTERVIEW: US and Cyprus: an enhanced relationship

US Ambassador John Koenig

Former ambassador of Cyprus Andrestinos Papadopoulos speaks with US ambassador John Koenig

The new, warmer climate between Cyprus and the United States has generated hopes that a genuine interest in a Cyprus settlement could act as a catalyst in finding a solution to the Cyprus problem. Does, therefore, a US involvement in the current process contain any new elements that could ensure a successful conclusion?

Relations between the United States and Cyprus have never been stronger. The recent meetings that President Anastasiades had with Secretary John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden are clear evidence of our enhanced relationship. Our strong bilateral partnership is based on common interests and common values, and is reflected in our strengthened economic ties and increasing cooperation to promote stability in the region.

A Cyprus settlement would greatly advance the strategic interests of the United States. We value the commitment of the leaders in Cyprus to engage in a new round of intensive negotiations under UN auspices and support efforts to impart a new and dynamic impulse to the settlement process. There is strong commitment from American leaders at the highest level of our government to support settlement efforts. We see a host of factors in the region that have come together that present clear advantages for both communities to find a solution.

In the context of a worsening economic crisis in Cyprus, how could the US help reverse its adverse effects and maintain the people’s faith in liberal economic and democratic values?

We see a Cyprus that is firmly anchored in the family of democratic nations and committed to strong, market-driven economies. While the United States is neither an EU member nor part of the eurozone, we are closely engaged in ongoing discussions with our Cypriot partners about things we can do together to strengthen all our economies. At the macro level, this includes such things as the current negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the EU. At the micro level, there are growing opportunities for cooperation here in Cyprus in a variety of industries in which the United States is a world leader, and not just hydrocarbons. Through the years, the United States has provided training and education to thousands of Cypriots through our scholarship and other exchange programmes, and that continues. At the end of the day, it will be the private sector in both our countries that will be most important in helping achieve a robust recovery. We look forward to working with Cyprus on those areas of greatest interest to private business, building on the vital advantages that Cyprus has to offer: a highly skilled work force, a record of success in important sectors, and an important geographical position. We will also relay to our side of the Atlantic that Cyprus is keen to do business.

Within the changing geopolitical context of the region, caused by the events in Syria and Egypt, as well as the discovery of natural gas in Cyprus’ EEZ, how do you view the role of the Republic of Cyprus in the overall, evolving Western security strategy for the Eastern Mediterranean?

The Eastern Mediterranean is a region of vital importance to the United States. We see Cyprus as an increasingly capable and committed partner in this region. Our cooperation is already yielding excellent results in fields such as our common struggle against international terrorism. The successful prosecution and conviction of a Hezbollah operative here in Cyprus whose plot could have taken many innocent lives and done substantial damage to Cyprus’ tourism industry, is a good example. Just this past month, Cyprus has demonstrated its important role in the region by agreeing to provide a support base for the joint mission of the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Mission, which is leading the effort to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria. We are very pleased to see relations between Cyprus and other key American allies and partners in the region, especially Israel, intensify and grow stronger. The US welcomes the commitment of President Anastasiades and Cyprus to draw closer to the Euro-Atlantic security community.

This strategic vision already brings us closer and opens new avenues for cooperation. More and more, we see Cyprus as a reliable partner and security provider in a region that faces challenges. A Cyprus reunited as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation could play this role even more effectively, and would unlock its potential for all Cypriots for a stable and prosperous future.

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