By Stefanos Evripidou
US VICE President Joe Biden is expected to have dinner with the two leaders in the peace talks during his historic visit to Cyprus next week.
More than half a century after the last American VP visited the island, news of Biden’s visit to this tiny island in the eastern Mediterranean has got tongues wagging as to the purpose behind the visit.
Biden’s schedule in Cyprus has yet to be announced, though it appears certain he will arrive next Wednesday, hold meetings throughout the following day and leave on Friday.
The US Vice President will meet separately with President Nicos Anastasiades, Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, religious leaders and members of civil society, possibly including LGBT group Accept, who are organising the first gay pride festival in Cyprus at the end of this month.
Government sources said a possible dinner with Biden, Anastasiades, Eroglu and UN Special Representative Lisa Buttenheim may be held on Thursday evening.
In comments to the Turkish Cypriot press, Eroglu also referred to a possible dinner but on the Wednesday.
Sources said Anastasiades and Biden will discuss bilateral relations, energy matters, the Cyprus problem and the Ukrainian crisis, with the main emphasis on energy.
The government has sought in recent days to play down the possibility of a big announcement on the issue of the fenced area of Famagusta, with Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides saying from Washington that if Biden had anything specific to announce on the Cyprus problem, it would involve “small steps”.
Kasoulides was in Washington for a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who reports suggest will also come to Cyprus later this year.
The fact Biden has chosen to come to Cyprus, regardless of what he will announce in public, led Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to book a plane for the occupied areas.
He arrives before midday today for talks with Eroglu, followed by a working lunch with Eroglu and Turkish Cypriot party leaders. The Turkish minister will meet with other Turkish Cypriot politicians, including ‘foreign minister’ Ozdil Nami before leaving this afternoon.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides has hailed the “particularly important” upcoming visit of the American VP, highlighting the enhanced interest of the United States both with regard to the Cyprus problem, as well as the important role Cyprus can play in the broader region.
A lot has been made among opposition leaders on the fact that Biden plans to visit Eroglu in the north.
According to Cyprus News Agency (CNA), during a meeting in Washington with Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Kasoulides was assured that Biden personally understands the concerns of the Cyprus government and will take all necessary measures to avoid anything that could undermine the status of the Cyprus Republic.
Prominent members of the Greek American community, including Archbishop Demetrios of America, raised the issue with the US government as a point of concern.
Sullivan is expected to meet with them on Monday at the White House to address some of their concerns over Biden’s planned contacts in the occupied areas.
A source told CNA’s correspondent in the US that American diplomats and a member of the Vice President`s official delegation will inspect the location where Biden and Eroglu will meet to ensure everything is as agreed.
The newswire also reported that the main issue on the agenda in the Biden visit will be the progress in Cyprus-US relations over the last 15 months and how to expand them further, as well as Cyprus’ role in the region.
AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou yesterday welcomed Biden’s visit, highlighting the need for UN Security Council assistance in solving the Cyprus problem. He warned that the Greek Cypriots did not have the luxury of another failure.
Should the Greek Cypriots be blamed for any such failure, then “we should forget about a Cyprus problem solution as we have pursued it until now”.
DISY leader Averof Neophytou sought to counter criticism that Biden’s meeting with Eroglu constituted an upgrade of the breakaway regime, noting that the political leadership for years has pursued greater international interest in ending the island’s division. And there are few countries that have the influence that the US has, he said.
“We have international interest, a more active US interest, a more active EU interest. We maintain excellent relations with the other permament members of the UN Security Council. For us, it is positive that the Cyprus problem is a priority of the international community.”
DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos described Biden’s decision to visit the north as a “highly negative development”, while House President and EDEK leader Yiannakis Omirou said the president should inform Biden that pressure had to be put on Turkey.
Citizens’ Alliance leader Giorgos Lillikas called on Anastasiades to inform Biden that a NATO member was occupying the north of Cyprus using US military equipment. Also, he should let him know that there was no issue of piping Cypriot gas to Europe via Turkey as it is not a trustworthy country.
Greens leader Giorgos Perdikis called on the president to convene the national council to discuss Biden’s visit, noting that even Davutoglu kept Turkish Cypriot party leaders informed.