‘Turning Cyprus from a problem into a solution’

While Cyprus has long been seen under the prism of a divided island due to its conflict with Turkey, and as a money laundering haven for Russian cash; it has made strides in shifting towards the US, said a Politico commentary published on Monday.

As such, there is a wealth of opportunity in furthering security cooperation between both countries, it said.

Penned by Ivo Daalder, former US ambassador to Nato and CEO of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the piece began with a quote by President Nikos Christodoulides, in which he says: “You see Cyprus as a problem. But that’s wrong. You need to see Cyprus as the solution.”

Daalder, who writes Politico’s Across the Pond column agreed with the statement, highlighting that the US has long seen Cyprus as a problem due to its divided island status which has gone on for 50 years.

Nonetheless, the island has far more to offer than “a problem”, Daalder said. He observed a role for Cyprus as a stable country in a conflict-ridden region, and a country that has been working “to clean up a notoriously corrupt banking system”.

The timing of the article comes as Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos was in the US and met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken where the ties between both countries were taken to a new level.

Daalder met with Kombos on Sunday, according to the minister’s post on X.

Cyprus “is no longer the top destination for easy Russian money”, Daalder wrote.

“The government in Nicosia has invited the FBI and US Justice Department officials to help investigate money laundering and other criminal activities, opening its books, reforming its institutions and cooperating in FBI-instigated investigations – even of its own citizens.

“Nicosia has also ended its long and cosy relationship with Moscow, taking a decisive turn toward the West – the US in particular.”

Despite Cyprus’ division, it has been “an island of stability in an increasingly turbulent part of the world, providing a platform for political, economic, humanitarian and military reach at Europe’s intersection with the Middle East.”

The value of the island was particularly highlighted after Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, he noted.

Cyprus played a role in evacuating US citizens from countries such as Israel and Lebanon, where it also offered up “its territory and waters to the US military” to prepare for a feared escalation of the war.

This also led to the materialisation of the maritime humanitarian corridor – the Amalthea plan, sending aid to Gaza.

As such, all together, this points to a geostrategic partnership between Nicosia and Washington, which could offer the US “many advantages.”

Though the US has taken small steps since 2018 through a bilateral security cooperation statement and lifted the arms embargo, Daalder said Washington “could build on the island’s strong relations with Israel, Egypt and Palestinians, helping work toward a longer-term resolution to the war in Gaza”.

“It would offer a strong counter to attempts by Russia and China to extend their strategic influence into the eastern Mediterranean. It would strengthen energy ties with Greece, Israel and Egypt.”

It would also build trust between the US, the EU and Nato, even potentially convincing Ankara that after 50 years, the time has come to find an equitable diplomatic end to the conflict.

A strong US-Cyprus partnership may well be the key to turning the Cyprus problem into the Cyprus solution,” he concluded.