When it comes to the government’s dealings with powerful countries there is one element usually missing – a sense of perspective. As a result, hype surrounds meetings of President Anastasiades and his foreign minister with representatives of foreign states, most often generated by the government with a little help from the media.
Today’s meeting of Anastasiades with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem is a case in point. Predictably, it has been played up by the government, even though it will take place on the sidelines of the Israel-Greece-Cyprus trilateral summit, which Pompeo will be attending at the invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The presence of the Secretary of State is related directly to Netanyahu’s re-election bid, the US administration is keen to show its support for the PM.
Anastasiades did well to secure a one-on-one meeting on sidelines of the trilateral, but nothing of substance would be discussed. Government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said the president will try to secure an expression of support by the US for the rights of Cyprus in its EEZ, along the lines of what was recently said by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini.
If Pompeo does oblige he will say nothing different from what the new US ambassador Judith Gail Garber said during the presentation of her credentials on Monday, which is also repeated by every US official when asked. The US recognises the right of the Republic to develop the resources in its EEZ and also “believe these resources should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement.”
Apart from the expression of support, a number of other bilateral issues would be on the meeting agenda, such as ExxonMobil’s presence in Cyprus’ EEZ and the US arms embargo on Cyprus, said Prodromou. The latter is not a serious issue although the government has been toying with it for some time now. It is not as if the lifting of the embargo will open the way for the purchase of fighter jets or ballistic missiles from the US. The agenda mentioned by Prodromou indicates that the Anastasiades-Pompeo meeting will be of an informal nature.
There is nothing wrong with that and such meetings should be welcomed as they contribute towards forging better relations in the medium term. By building up expectations for today’s meeting, as a section of the press has done, claiming the government’s main objective was to secure a position by the US, “which would send a special message to Turkey in relation with its violations and provocations within the Cypriot EEZ”, the government has created expectations of an informal meeting, in keeping with the lack of perspective it so often displays.