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Biden’s motives for Cyprus visit

22 May 2014

As Cyprus is beside itself over the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden, the first visit by such a high ranking statesman in 52 years since the late US leader Lyndon Johnson arrived here as Vice President in 1962, the TRNC appears underwhelmed by the visit.

US government newspaper ‘Voice of America’ clarifies the reason for Biden’s visit to Cyprus.

The US vice president, who flew to Larnaca from Bucharest is in Cyprus as part of a concerted effort to galvanize support for possible further sanctions against Russia.

He arrived in Cyprus expressing support for the country’s negotiation process and efforts to reunify the island, which has been divided since a Turkish military intervention was made in 1974.

Biden is on a tour aimed at isolating Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

Earlier, at a joint press conference with Romania’s president in Bucharest, Biden said the two talked about loosening Europe’s dependence on Russia.

“We also spoke at some length about energy security, and how national security and energy security come together in this part of the world in the need to ensure that Russia can no longer continue using its energy resources and European dependence on those resources as a weapon, a weapon against anyone in this region,” said Vice President Biden.

A unified Cyprus would pave the way for Cypriot and Israeli gas to be transported to Europe via Turkey. Unity, stability and security are key.

But pressuring Russia remains the underlying reason for Biden’s visit to the island.  The vice president said he would discuss events in Ukraine with Cypriot leaders, as well as US efforts to impose further sanctions on Russia.

However, US government officials face a challenge since deep-rooted economic ties exist between Cyprus and Russia. Therefore, Cyprus would be reluctant to support sanctions against Russia, who the US says is responsible to destabilising Ukraine.

The paper quotes Christopher Hill, a former senior US diplomat now at the University of Denver, who says the Cypriot banking system is one area where Washington would like to see change.

“We certainly knew this during the Balkan crises that Cyprus does have a flexible banking system where some of these not very nice people are able to park their money so there’s always an issue of whether banking regulations in Cyprus and in a few other countries, but Cyprus is one of them, can be strengthened such that people who are being sanctioned by the international community maybe don’t get away with it,” said Hill.

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