US vice president in Cyprus visit to boost talks-UPDATED

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Cyprus in first visit by a U.S. official in 52 years as peace talks continue to find a solution to the ongoing stalemate.

US vice president in Cyprus visit to boost talks-UPDATED

World Bulletin / News Desk

"I am not here to impose a solution, but find one," said the Vice President of the United States Joe Biden after arriving at the Larnaca airport Wednesday.

Biden stressed the importance of the joint statement signed on February 11, which kick-started peace talks between the parties involved after a two-year hiatus.

"Peace is always possible, but it requires engagement not just from leaders but from citizens. In that respect, I am encouraged to hear of the joint initiative from Cypriot political, civic and business leaders," he added.

Biden's visit marked the first in 52 years by a U.S. senior official. He was welcomed by Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Loannis Kasulidis and U.S. envoy to the Greek Cypriot administration, John Koenig.

Biden refuted the rumors that he came to the island "with a plan in his back pocket".

"I would like to put that rumor to rest," he said. "I came here on behalf of the U.S. to help you get a solution, not to present or impose one."

The island of Cyprus has remained divided into Greek and Turkish parts since a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by a Turkish peace mission to aid Turkish Cypriots in the north in 1974.

Two weeks ago the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of violating European human rights agreements, saying that the whereabouts of 1,491 Greek Cypriots is still unknown and 211,000 Greek Cypriots were forced from their homes, following a lawsuit filed in 1994 by the Greek Cypriot administration.

Biden will meet with the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Dervis Eroglu and Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiadis during his visit.

Biden's visit to bring new focus in "Cyprus standoff"

Biden’s visit comes as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the Greek Cypriot administration continue peace talks aimed at resolving the conflict that led to the partition of the island forty years ago.

A joint statement signed on February 11 kick started peace talks between the parties after a two-year hiatus.

The newly-found 200 billion cubic meters of natural gas in offshore Cyprus, is also considered a new catalyst for peace and cooperation in the region.

Although bringing a welcome new focus on the division of the island, the visit is unlikely to solve the main obstacle in the way of a Cyprus settlement: the lack of trust between Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Turkey and Greece, says International Crisis Group Turkey and Cyprus expert, Hugh Pope.

Underlining that a “winning strategy” is a must for Turkey to solve the Cyprus problem, Pope said if Turkey takes the necessary diplomatic step towards the EU, this would potentially open all Turkey's EU negotiating chapters, completely changing the atmosphere of mistrust and truly improve prospects of a settlement on the island.

“Despite the fact that both sides of the island have their concerns that the other side would gain more international recognition and status, Biden’s visit would still accelerate the peace talks,” Ayla Gurel, a Senior Research Consultant at PRIO Cyprus Centre based in Nicosia, told AA in a written statement.

Emphasizing that Biden’s visit aims to underline the importance of the refreshed peace-talks in Cyprus, an agreement about the natural gas discoveries would also be a "confidence amplifier" if it was to be reached while the peace talks continue.

“However, Greek Cypriot administration has a ‘red line’ about sharing the resources discovered in the island’s exclusive economic zone with TRNC,” said Gurel, adding that she did not expect an agreement during Biden’s visit.

Meanwhile, Gary Lakes, Director at Energy Program, European Rim Policy and Investment Council based in Nicosia, said the fact that the US vice president is visiting Cyprus does "seem to suggest" that the east Mediterranean is now an important point of focus for Washington.

“The fact that the East Mediterranean as a potential source of energy supply to Turkey and other countries is certainly another important issue,” he said.

Although Lakes did not expect any abrupt announcements or decisions from the Biden visit, he underlined that discussions take place would eventually become known through developments that occur during the course of Greek and Turkish Cypriot negotiations.

Last Mod: 22 Mayıs 2014, 12:09
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