By Jean Christou
US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland yesterday spoke of “seizing the opportunity” and of “courageous steps” to heal the island’s division.
In a brief statement issued after separate meetings with President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, Nuland said she was persuaded that each was personally committed to making real progress in the “coming days and weeks”. No statements were made after the meetings.
Nuland had been scheduled to hold a news conference in the buffer zone yesterday but it was cancelled at the last minute without explanation in favour of issuing a carefully-worded announcement after the State Department on Monday played down speculation of growing US involvement in helping move the process forward.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said at the weekend the US was “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.
However a state department spokeswoman, Jennifer Psaki, said late on Monday that the US was not engaged in any ‘new’ process or initiative on Cyprus. “I don’t want you or anyone to over-read into what he stated,” she told reporters in Washington. “Obviously, this is an issue we’re engaged in. Our position hasn’t changed. But he [Kerry] wasn’t indicating that there was a new process or system underway that you’re not aware of. Our position [on Cyprus] has not changed.”
Nuland made no reference to Kerry in her written statement yesterday and stuck to a standard diplomatically-worded text, referring to “excellent meetings” and “strengthening relations”.
These concern regional issues such as cooperation in counterterrorism, law enforcement, support for human rights, the common fight against trafficking, and Cyprus’ important role in supporting the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons.
On the Cyprus issue, Nuland had “excellent discussions” with the two leaders.
“I am persuaded, after these discussions, that each leader is personally committed to making real progress in coming days and weeks toward ending the division of this island,” she said.
Both leaders assured her of their strong determination to reach agreement on a joint statement that would “define key principles to foster renewal of fruitful, results-oriented settlement negotiations”. “I assured them of President Obama and the American people’s strong support as they seize this opportunity and our continued engagement as they take courageous steps to heal the island’s divisions and bring security, economic prosperity, and hope to all the people of all the island’s communities,” said Nuland.
“The United States supports the development and early implementation of measures to build confidence and enhance cooperation on the island and in the region.”
Reports last week said the US was working with Ankara on the text of the proposed joint statement that aims at re-starting the stalled talks. US Ambassador to Cyprus John Koenig was said to be actively involved as a gobetween 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.
Government spokesman Christos Stylianides said yesterday that during the president’s meeting with Nuland efforts concerning the final formulation of a “substantive” joint communique were discussed.
“Also discussed at the meeting were ways and measures that will reinforce the efforts to develop an appropriate climate and reinforce, at the same time, the process for the solution to the Cyprus problem,” he said.
“The President briefed Ms Nuland on the positions of our side and reiterated that it is absolutely necessary to have a joint communique, which will indicate the beginning of an effective negotiation and that will, at the same time, have prospects for completion.”