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All eyes on Biden visit

Ahmet Davutoglu (left) in the north yesterday with Dervis Eroglu

By Jean Christou

TURKISH Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu yesterday hailed the coming week’s visit by US Vice President Joe Biden as a “positive and important step” but quashed any expectations of ‘big news’ on Varosha.

Davutoglu made a pit-stop in the north most likely to ensure Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu was on the same page ahead of the US Vice President’s visit. Observers believe Eroglu is not quite as enthused about it as the Cyprus government.  Earlier this week he hinted he thought Biden would favour the Greek Cypriot side.

Davutoglu, couching his words somewhat carefully yesterday, let it be known that he himself was deeply involved in the negotiations. He said he was visiting the north to discuss the developments in the Cyprus issue since December but specifically referred to “the recent increased international interest”, making clear the main reason for his short visit.

During a joint news conference with Eroglu a few hours before he departed, Eroglu said: “The visit to Cyprus by Vice President Biden is another example of international interest. For us it is very positive and important step that could create a hopeful momentum.” Davutoglu said Biden would liaise “equally with both sides” encouraging them to solve the Cyprus issue.

Biden is expected to discuss, among other things, the fenced-off area of Famagusta, known as Varosha, for which the US is reportedly willing to fund a masterplan study. The Greek Cypriot side wants it returned as a confidence-building measure (CBM).

But Davutoglu yesterday ruled this out under the current circumstances saying Varosha was always an issue to be decided as part of a comprehensive settlement. “Once you go along with individual solutions then at some stage you create a new status quo, which can prevent a comprehensive solution,” he said.

He added that CBMs must be equitable and balanced. If Varosha was to be discussed as a CBM, then something of equivalent or equal value would also have to be on the table. “Otherwise while increasing the confidence of one side you may reduce the confidence of the other,” he said.

Davutoglu said he had met his US counterpart John Kerry in London two days ago and that the Secretary of State had expressed US support for a Cyprus solution. Kerry is also due in Cyprus this year. He assured Davutoglu that US support would continue after Biden’s visit. “Peace in the Eastern Mediterranean passes through a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem,” said the Turkish Minister.

Eroglu, in his statements said he also welcomed the Biden visit as a means of pushing the negotiations along. He complained that he seemed unable to secure another meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades. Since the new round of talks began on February 11 this year, the leaders met for only a second time on March 31.

Commenting on the ire generated on the Greek Cypriot side over Biden’s possible visit to the north, Eroglu said he would see the US Vice President in the same room where he sees all visitors. “I told this to the US ambassador. There is no more appropriate place in the TRNC,” said Eroglu.

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