In what has been heralded as a “historic moment”, Cyprus and the US announced on Monday they were embarking on a strategic dialogue, deepening the relations between both countries on a number of sectors including security and investment.

The development was publicised during a meeting in Washington DC between Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

This is an important moment in the relationship between the United States and Cyprus,” Blinken said at the State Department before his meeting with Kombos. 

The Republic now joins the list of 30 countries the US has formalised a strategic dialogue with to date, of which 13 are EU member states.

Kombos described it as “a historic moment because the Republic of Cyprus enters a category of states with which the US wants to have an institutionalised dialogue with. A dialogue which is intensive and is geared towards achieving specific results.”

In concrete terms, the strategic dialogue will now mean Nicosia and Washington will engage in high-level talks twice a year on matters concerning six pillars: humanitarian crisis management; terrorism and security; energy; trade and investment; education, and cultural matters.

There will also be continuous communication “at all levels” between both countries.

The first round of talks is slated to take place in Nicosia this September between senior officials from the foreign ministries of both countries.

Blinked stressed “I think it’s very powerful evidence of the strengthening, the deepening, the broadening of the relationship between our countries, acting together in so many different areas.”

He added the maritime corridor in Gaza is a “prominent example” of the deepening relationship “but if you look at what we’re doing in terms of trade, in terms of science and technology, in terms of security, in terms of education, in terms of people-to-people ties, you see a partnership, a relationship that’s growing stronger, that’s growing deeper.

“It’s a reflection of the fact that Cyprus is an important player in the region and a partnership for the United States that we deeply value.”

One of the most welcome developments is a bilateral agreement signed for cooperation on the use of travel documents. It was signed between the ambassadors of both countries in the presence of Kombos and James O’Brien, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

The agreement paves the way for Cyprus’ ambitions to formally join the Visa Waiver Programme, which will allow Cypriot citizens to travel to the US for work or tourism for up to 90 days without needing to obtain a visa.

Cyprus considers it has made significant headway towards the goal.

In his own statements, Kombos heralded the strategic dialogue development as a marked shift in how Cyprus is seen in the US. “The approach is no longer shaped by the wants of a neighbouring country. There is a Republic of Cyprus that operates autonomously, exercises sovereignty.”

His statements echo a commentary piece published in Politico by former US ambassador to Nato Ivo Daalder, highlighting that although Cyprus was always seen through the shadow of the Cyprus problem, the country has now firmly illustrated it has more to offer than ‘the problem’.

Kombos used the Amalthea initiative as an example to illustrate that “we are part of a region marred by constant crises. Within this, Cyprus is part of the answer, part of the solution for the international community.

It is through this lens that five decades of Cyprus’ occupation by Turkey should be viewed, he added. “On that, we count on the support of the United States.”

The minister described Cyprus as “a credible, predictable partner for the US” with both countries sharing a common foundation, commitment to democracy, rule of law and opposition to aggression.

“And upon those we stand together, whether that’s in Ukraine or in relation to other places where we have such incidents.”

The meeting was held in a “friendly and cordial atmosphere”, according to the government, where Kombos and Blinken also discussed the situation in the Middle East, focusing on the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza through the maritime corridor. In this context, Blinken thanked Kombos for Cyprus’ role in the implementation of the Amalthea Plan.

The Cyprus problem was also discussed during the meeting, with the Secretary of State stressing the will and commitment of the US to achieve a solution of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, with political equality, as provided for in the relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. For his part, the Blinked reiterated the US ‘support for a solution to the Cyprus problem within the framework of the UN.