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Cyprus Cyprus Talks

Biden visit ‘no reason to ring church bells’

DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos blamed the government for not being assertive enough in preventing Biden’s trip to the north to meet the Turkish Cypriot leader

By Elias Hazou

THE POMP and ceremony of Joe Biden’s presence here apparently failed to assuage the political opposition in Cyprus, with each of the parties – except DISY – discovering a negative element in the American vice president’s visit.

Despite the grumbles, the same politicians played along with protocol and attended an official lunch in Biden’s honour at the presidential palace.

Attending the lunch, among others, were former presidents, including Demetris Christofias. TV footage showed a dour-looking Christofias not rising from his seat to acknowledge a toast offered by Biden for his hosts after having delivered a short statement. Minutes earlier, however, he had got up to raise his glass to a toast offered by President Nikos Anastasiades – the contrast making Christofias’ curious conduct even more noticeable.

Hours later, Giorgos Lillikas – one of the guests at the function – was telling a gathering of supporters of his Citizens Alliance party that the president “is deluding himself if he believes Washington will lean on the Turkish government to abandon its intransigent positions [on Cyprus].”

Rather, Lillikas said, the United States has always viewed Turkey as its strategic partner in the region.

“The United States will not upset Turkey on the Cyprus issue. This is what history teaches, and what the Annan plan teaches. This was also the message from Biden, who told us that it is up to the two communities to solve the Cyprus problem.”

Lillikas reiterated that Biden’s visit to the north has upgraded the status of the breakaway regime, “a slap in the face for our cause.”

While welcoming Biden’s affirmation of the Republic as the sole legitimate government on the island, EDEK insisted on demanding to know whether Nicosia consented to the US vice president’s visit to the north.

Biden’s crossing to the occupied areas is in violation of UN Security Council resolutions on Cyprus and sets a “dangerous precedent”, the socialist party said.

EDEK added that it holds the United States partially responsible for the 1974 tragedy. On energy, the party said it was understandable that the United States should have a role in the region, “however we expect the government to make it clear that our national interests dictate that Cyprus become an energy hub and that the piping of gas through Turkey will lead to misadventures and render captive our natural resources.”

For his part, DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos let it be known he was none too impressed with Biden’s public recognition of the Cyprus Republic, an assertion which should be taken for granted.
“It is no reason to ring church bells in celebration,” Papadopoulos remarked.

He went on to blame the government for not being assertive enough in preventing Biden’s trip to the north to meet the Turkish Cypriot leader.

AKEL’s take was more restrained. In a statement, the communist party noted the increased US interest in the Cyprus issue, but added that the precise nature of this interest have yet to manifest.

“The present juncture can create opportunities but also dangers which we must not underestimate,” the statement added.

“The Americans must channel their initiative to solving the Cyprus problem on the basis of international law and UN resolutions.”

As expected, ruling DISY was the only party focusing solely on the bright side of Biden’s visit. Christos Stylianides, MEP candidate and former government spokesman, said the historic visit creates “new conditions, new geopolitical facts that must be duly exploited.”

Drawing on Biden’s reference to Cyprus as a “strategic partner” for the United States, Stylianides said the shift in diplomatic policy should be credited to the current administration’s realpolitik.

“We hope that those who had concerns over the visit are now fully convinced that the visit is a serious political achievement for Cyprus,” Stylianides added.

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