By Jean Christou
US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland is expected on the island on Tuesday and is due to meet the two leaders to convey US support for accelerating a Cyprus solution.
Nuland’s visit – she was in Athens at the weekend – appears to lend weight to growing reports of increased US involvement in helping the two sides reach a deal on an elusive joint statement that would help re-start stalled negotiations.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said as much at the weekend. “We’re working on Cyprus quietly. You’re not hearing about it,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Security Conference in Munich on Saturday where he had a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.
The Cyprus News Agency said that according to a senior state department official, the two men discussed a number of issues, including the Cyprus problem and US support for the negotiation process. The US is said to be working with Ankara on the text of the proposed joint statement.
US Ambassador to Cyprus John Koenig is said to be actively involved as a go-between in communications between Nicosia and Ankara but so far the Greek Cypriots have rejected Ankara’s proposal made through the ambassador. The sticking point remains the term “single sovereignty” in a federal Cyprus.
On Saturday UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the two sides were close to concluding the joint statement – before he went on to make some remarks that angered the Greek Cypriot side over the terminology he used and over why talks did not get off the ground last year.
Commenting yesterday, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides appeared unimpressed with US and UN statements of how close a joint statement might be, given Turkey’s harassment of a Norwegian research vessel off Cyprus at the weekend.
“The UNSG and the US Secretary of State have said in public that we are very close to an agreement on a joint declaration, and perhaps we are. But how is it expected, in an environment like this with the Turks threatening and creating a problem like Saturday night… how can this be ignored in concluding something and beginning negotiations?” said Kasoulides.
If the US and the UN believed a joint statement was so close in such circumstances, they should have a good talk with Turkey on the matter, he added.