By Kyriacos Kyriacou – Nicosia
US vice-president Joe Biden’s visit to Cyprus next week has drawn mixed responses, with ruling DISY welcoming the move and detractors focusing on the Turkish Cypriot leg of the visit. It will be the first visit of a US president or vice-president in 52 years. The last visitor was former American President Lyndon B. Johnson.
The announcement of Biden’s arrival on May 21 clarified that he will “meet with political leaders from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, civil society representatives and religious leaders.” Reports from Washington suggested that the agenda would focus on a “master-plan” to finance the rebuilding of the occupied town of Famagusta, and that the deal – which would also feature the demining of three minefields – would be announced shortly after the visit’s conclusion.
Government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides described Biden’s upcoming visit as “extremely significant”, asserting that it indicative of the US’ increased interest in the Cyprus problem.
But local political parties were more sceptical and shifted their focus on what they saw as the visit’s potential downsides.
“The government is celebrating because the American vice-president will visit the occupied areas,” said DIKO leader Nikolas Papadopoulos, suggesting that the visit would effectively equate the Republic of Cyprus with the breakaway regime in the north.
“We must ask who will gain the most from this visit,” Papadopoulos said. “Us or the pseudo-state?”
Kerry underlines US support
Meantime, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said on Tuesday his country is very supportive of efforts for a bizonal, bicommunal federation solution in Cyprus.
The Eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and since then occupies 37% of this EU country`s territory. UN-backed talks are underway with the aim to reunite the island under a federal roof. The Republic of Cyprus became a full EU member state in May 2004.
John Kerry was speaking before a meeting in Washington with his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides, who said that Cyprus needs the assistance and interest of the international community as the circumstances on the island are appropriate to push to find a settlement in this quorum.
The 40 minute meeting is said to have been cordial and covered the Cyprus issue, bilateral affairs and issues concerning the region. The top issue raised by the US side was Famagusta and confidence building measures.
In his remarks, Kerry reminded that he met Kasoulides last May and the two had “been talking and working on the issue of trying to find peace for Cyprus, a reunification of the island on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation policy”.
He said Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and the Foreign Minister have taken leadership in trying to bring a long sought-after resolution to this and “we are privileged to work with them in that effort”, stressing “we are very supportive of this initiative. So we have a lot to talk about today, and I want to impress on everybody our respect for and gratitude for the leadership that is currently being provided by the current administration, and we look forward to continuing to work with them”.
Kerry said he hoped “to be in Nicosia and perhaps in Athens somewhere in the next weeks if not early months”, adding: “ We`ve been talking about a visit for some time”.
On his part, Kasoulides thanked Secretary Kerry and the US administration for their assistance and their interest for a solution.
Kasoulides stressed Kerry`s knowledge of the Cyprus issue as well his determination to visit Cyprus and “provide substance to such visit”.
The Cypriot FM also welcomed US Vice President Joe Biden`s scheduled visit to Cyprus. “This visit will have a different nature. It will symbolize the interest at the highest level and encourage the sides for a solution to the Cyprus problem,” he said.
90ml fine to Turkey
Replying to a question over statements made by Turkish officials that Turkey will not pay the 90 ml euros to the Republic of Cyprus as compensation for the violation of human rights during and after the 1974 invasion of the island as ruled by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR),
Kasoulides said that this does not prevent the Committee of Ministers (of the Council of Europe) from working for compliance of the decision. He said Turkey will have to provide explanations to the Committee and will still need to address the repercussions.
“Do not forget that the compensation will be subject to interest rate until the day they pay. They will have to pay the compensation”, he added.
Four issues on the negotiators’ agenda
According to information, during a meeting on Tuesday the negotiators of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot side, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Kudret Ozersay discussed the property issue, the federal Public Service and the competencies of the Central Government. According to the same information, during their next meeting on May 20, the two negotiators will discuss matters related to the property issue, the federal competencies and external relations.