By Kyriacos Kyriacou – Nicosia
Cyprus is poised to become a key player in the Eastern Mediterranean, transforming the Eastern Mediterranean into a new global hub for natural gas, US Vice President Joe Biden said, pledging his country stands prepared to assist the efforts for the reunification of Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.
Addressing an official luncheon hosted by the Cyprus President on the occasion of his two-day visit to Cyprus, Bidden recalled the US` exit from recession, noting that Cyprus is also weathering tough economic times following “painful reforms.”
“Your economy is now turning a corner, you are emerging as a leader in the region and Cyprus is poised to become a key player in the Eastern Mediterranean, transforming the Eastern Mediterranean into a new global hub for natural gas and markets.”
“You are uniquely situated at a critical time in modern history. So it should be no surprise that the best days are ahead for Cyprus as well,” he went on to say.
The US Vice President referred to the cooperation between his country and Cyprus on the biggest issues of the day, such as combating terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the removal of Syria`s chemical weapons, the prevention of Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon and responding to Russian intervention in Ukraine.
“This is not just a strategic partnership, it is a growing partnership,” he added.
US supports solution
Biden stressed that a settlement that would reunite Cyprus as a bi-zonal Bi-communal federation is possible and added “the US stands prepared to provide any assistance that we can toward you accomplishing that end.”
“And think about where we can go if we can free the next generation from the conflicts of the past. Once that is done there is simply no limit to what Cyprus can achieve and to what this partnership between Cyprus the US can achieve,” he concluded.
“We count on your assistance”
During a morning meeting at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades told US Vice President Jo Biden that Cyprus counts on the US` to secure its sovereign rights to explore and exploit its natural resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone and on its assistance in order to find a solution to the Cyprus issue.
Referring to Biden`s visit to the island, President Anastasiades called it “a landmark visit of real historical significance, as it constitutes the first visit to Cyprus by a US Vice President since 1962: aptly demonstrating the significant improvement in the partnership between Cyprus and the United States”. A partnership, he added, “which we can now call strategic”.
He continued to say that it deeply saddens him that Biden`s visit to the Republic comes at a time “when the long-standing problem of occupation and division remains unresolved”.
He further expressed his sadness that “around this table we do not have with us our Turkish Cypriot compatriots”.
Meeting with Eroglu
During the evening, Biden visited the occupied north part of Cyprus and met for an hour with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu. Biden appeared to avoid shaking Eroglu’s hand for the cameras and waved instead. It is worth reminding that on Wednesday the US Vice President stressed in a statement that the “US recognizes only the legitimate government of Cyprus and my visit will not change that”. The office of the Cyprus Presidency said Nicosia has received assurances from the US government “that in order to avoid any attempt to exploit the meeting for other purposes, the Vice President will meet Mr. Eroglu not in his usual office but in an adjoining building, without any symbols whatsoever.” Talking to the press, after his meeting with Biden, Eroglu said that he found the meeting with the US vice President very useful, adding that they discussed issues concerning the Cyprus peace talks and the natural gas.
Biden is expected to leave on Thursday late night. He is the first US Vice President or President to visit the island in 52 years, since former American President Lyndon B. Johnson’s visit.