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No more than ‘small steps’ from Biden visit, warns Kasoulides

Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides addressing the American Jewish global conference in Washington DC

By Angelos Anastasiou

INITIAL and “small steps” may come out of US vice-president Joe Biden’s visit to Cyprus next week, but they will be just that, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Tuesday.

Speaking after a meeting with his American counterpart John Kerry at the State Department, Kasoulides extended his gratitude to Kerry and the US government for the “assistance and interest, which are welcome because the conditions are ripe to press ahead with settling the Cyprus problem.”

He also announced Kerry’s intention to visit Cyprus during the summer and welcomed Biden’s upcoming arrival.

“This visit will be different,” Kasoulides said. “It will be symbolic of the US’ interest at the highest level and will encourage both sides towards agreeing a solution to the Cyprus problem.”

With regard to confidence-building measures (CBMs), Kasoulides said they were discussed during the meeting.

“Decisions may be taken this week or next week for the initial small steps, but they will be the initial, small steps,” he said rather cryptically.

After the Kerry meeting, Kasoulides addressed the American Jewish Congress global conference. In his speech, he described the Cyprus government’s vision of a peaceful and prosperous Middle East region, and the strategy of promoting stability through trade and enhanced collaboration.

“The vision we all share is the deepening of the bonds not just between Cyprus and Israel, but also with Greece and the United States,” Kasoulides said.

Referring to energy issues, he described the discovery of natural resources as a “game changer,” adding that it could cause developments that will impact all citizens in Cyprus and conceivably catalyse the island’s reunification.

“Natural gas can become for the Eastern Mediterranean countries what steel and coal were to Europe,” he said.

Kasoulides continued his four-day visit to the US yesterday, meeting with leaders of the Cypriot- and Greek-American communities, as well as representatives of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Also scheduled were a one-hour meeting with Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, regarding issues relating to the US vice-president’s upcoming visit to Cyprus, and meetings with the US Senate’s Foreign Relations committee chairman Robert Menendez and other senators.

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