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Biden’s visit was of immense significance

Photo archive: US Vice President Joe Biden at Larnaca airport during his visit to Cyprus

By Dr Andrestinos Papadopoulos

FIFTEEN MONTHS of hard work by the foreign ministry, on the instructions of President Nicos Anastasiades, within the framework of his pro-American policy, resulted in the historic visit of Joe Biden, the United States’ vice president, the first such visit since Lyndon Johnson’s 52 years ago.

Biden thanked President Anastasiades for “his cooperation and for his efforts to build a genuine strategic partnership with the United States, a partnership that holds even greater promise in the future”. More important than this statement is the fact that the United States really means it.

Apart from the good climate which exists in US-Cyprus relations, there is the US interest in the developments in the eastern Mediterranean.

The instability which prevails in the region from Libya to Syria, the discovery of hydrocarbons and events in Ukraine means Cyprus is now projected as being a factor of stability in the eastern Mediterranean, in particular as a link in the Athens-Nicosia-Tel-Aviv triangle.

Moreover, the United States, aiming at securing stability in the region, is interested in promoting, within the framework of their wider energy policy, cooperation between Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, as the region’s hydrocarbons are not enough.

As Biden put it, “Cyprus can be a growing force for peace, prosperity and stability in the eastern Mediterranean that would benefit us all.”

This upgraded role for Cyprus has an economic dimension as well, since it will attract investments and create new opportunities to reduce unemployment.

The pinnacle of Biden’s visit was his statement upon arrival at Larnaca airport when he made clear that “the United States … recognise only one legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus and my visit and meetings throughout the island will not change that.

It is my personal position, it’s the position of the Unites States of America and it’s the position of the entire world, save one country.” The message was abundantly clear to both the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey.

The reference to the legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus echoes UN Security Council Resolution 541 of 18 November 1983, which considers the declaration of the pseudo state “as legally invalid” and calls upon all states “not to recognise any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus”.

Within the framework of this position the republic of Cyprus was upgraded, while the pseudo state was downgraded, since the meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader took place at his residence without any symbols of the pseudo state and without any protocol implying the existence of a state.

The message to Turkey was that she should hold back from efforts to upgrade the pseudo state at every occasion.

As a good diplomat, Biden, who knows the Cyprus problem in depth, met the Turkish Cypriot leader, knowing that only through dialogue with the two sides to a dispute can you achieve results.

Avoiding name-calling in respect to Turkey, which is the only country to have recognised the pseudo state, was a purposeful move. Solving the Cyprus problem without the consent of Turkey is impossible.

It should be mentioned that Turkey’s stand has inconvenienced the US on many occasions in the past, in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Israel, Armenia, and so on.

Knowing, also, that at this moment the Cyprus problem is not high on Turkey’s priorities and if a solution is not found now she will lose the train, Biden showed the said diplomacy, since the next step would be to turn towards Ankara for a change in her stance.

Biden’s meetings with the religious leaders, business people and members of the civic society were aimed at giving authority to rapprochement efforts and confirming the will of the United States to help find a solution and put an end to the Turkish occupation.

Some expressed concern at Biden’s visit and the strengthening of our relations with the United States, for which Ambassador John Koenig has worked tirelessly.

They should know that our relations with other countries are not harmed because of that.

The proof is to be found in this week’s visit by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meskov, and forthcoming visits by Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and France’s Francois Hollande.

All in all, the highlights of Biden’s visits were as follows:

There was considerable progress in the strengthening and deepening of the bilateral relations between the two countries.

The US vice president had first hand-experience of Turkish intransigence, when the question of Famagusta confidence building measures was discussed.

In view of the provocative stance of Turkey vis-à-vis Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the sovereign rights of Cyprus in its EEZ have been recognised. Moreover, Biden described Cyprus as a “key player” in the wider region.

The deepening of a personal relationship between President Anastasiades and Biden will have beneficial consequences for Cyprus, if we take into account that he could be the next US president, if he is proposed by his party and wins the elections.

There was understanding of the problems the Cyprus economy might encounter in case of further new sanctions against Russia.

Last but not least. As the vice president’s limousine was heading towards Larnaca airport at the end of the visit, those who looked at the two flags on the car waving in the breeze were conscious of the symbolism which denoted that the strategic partnership between the two countries had been inscribed in golden letters on the parchment of history.

Dr Andrestinos Papadopoulos is a former ambassador of the Cyprus republic

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