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Speculation mounts as to real purpose of Biden’s Cyprus visit

16 May 2014

Preparations are under way in anticipation of the visit next week of US Vice President Joe Biden to Cyprus followed by the expected visit of Secretary of State John Kerry, ‘Cyprus Mail’ reports.

US Ambassador to Cyprus John Koenig has been seeing leaders of Greek Cypriot parties, including the main opposition AKEL.  He also met Chief Turkish Cypriot negotiator Kudret Ozersay yesterday. Ozersay told ‘Kibris’ newspaper that the Turkish Cypriots view Biden’s visit in a positive light, adding that the US government wishes to “contribute” to peace negotiations and confidence-building measures between the two communities.

There are also reports that a meeting between Biden and Turkish Cypriot President Dervis Eroglu is not certain after all, however.

The last US Vice President to come to the island was Lyndon Johnson in 1962; and the consecutive visit to Cyprus by such high ranking US officials as Biden and Kerry would be unprecedented.

While Biden is visiting Cyprus, the United States is expected to announce the financing of a master plan for Famagusta, including the fenced-off area known as Varosha/Maras. Reports say that he will be allowed to enter Famagusta for inspection and to facilitate their studies on the master plan.

Biden arrives next Wednesday, under head-of-state protocol and will be accompanied by an armed security detail. It’s understood his itinerary is still being worked out.

The agenda of the talks with the government would revolve around the Cyprus question, energy, and the unfolding situation in the Ukraine.

Officially, the purpose of Biden’s visit amid increased US involvement, is to facilitate the peace process.

However observers say that Famagusta is not sufficient reason for a US Vice-President to take time out of his hectic schedule and spend two days in Cyprus.

Instead, there is speculation that Famagusta is the pretext for the visit, the real purpose of which may have to do with US policy to get South Cyprus and Israel to co-operate in the export of their gas reserves to Europe and thus reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas.

Meanwhile Greek Cypriot opposition parties continued raising doubts as to the purpose and usefulness of Biden’s visit.

DIKO warned that the standing of the “breakaway regime” would be upgraded should Biden cross over to the north.

DIKO went on to accuse ruling DISY – which has welcomed Biden’s visit and has downplayed the risks of raising the “breakaway regime’s” profile – of inconsistency.

The Citizens’ Alliance aired similar discontent, arguing that Biden’s presence in the north will ultimately serve the interests of the Turkish side.

The nationalist group ELAM meanwhile focused on reports that Biden’s son Hunter had recently joined the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian oil and gas company based in Cyprus. The company which was incorporated in 2006 apparently does not have interests or operations in the eastern Mediterranean.

Nevertheless, ELAM has asserted that “this explains Biden senior’s interest in a Cyprus solution.”

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