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US does not intend to impose solutions to Cyprob: US officials

20 May 2014

Senior US government officials at a press briefing, have said that the US government does not intend to exert pressure on either the Turkish or Greek Cypriots nor to impose solutions to the Cyprus problem, referring to the US Vice-President Joe Biden’s visit to Cyprus this week, ‘Cyprus Mail’ reports.

“We`re not coming to impose solutions or to pressure the two sides. This is about hearing Cypriot ideas for what a solution could look like. The Vice President will offer continued U.S. assistance as long as the sides find it useful,” officials who did not wish to be named, said.

According to the US officials, Vice President Biden and Cyprus President Anastasiades will discuss ways to enhance bilateral cooperation to strengthen regional security and prosperity as well as the UN-led peace effort aiming at a negotiated settlement.

Vice President Biden’s upcoming trips to Romania and Cyprus are primarily about strengthening bilateral ties with two key European partners and about consulting with them on the latest regional developments, including the continuing challenges presented by Russia’s destabilising actions in Ukraine, the officials said.

“The Republic of Cyprus is a newer, but also strong strategic partner. And as many of you on the call know, there is real historical significance to this visit. Vice President Biden will be the first sitting Vice President to visit Cyprus since Lyndon Johnson in 1962, and the most senior American official to visit Cyprus since that time,” they said.

“We believe that Cyprus can play a pivotal role in regional peace and security throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. The government of President Anastasiades, which has been in power for just over a year, has reoriented the country to promote core European and transatlantic priorities in the Eastern Mediterranean, something that we have welcomed,” they added.

The Vice President’s visit to Nicosia, it was pointed out, “is part of an effort to continue to cultivate our growing bilateral partnership, which includes cooperation to remove chemical weapons from Syria, non-proliferation, nuclear non-proliferation, counter-terrorism and crisis response.”

The economic crisis of March 2013, which forced Cyprus to seek a bailout from the troika, continues to take its toll, he noted and “the government is continuing to take steps to rise to the challenges that it is presented. Meanwhile, the discovery of hydrocarbons in the Cypriot EEZ could position Cyprus, we believe, as an energy and economic leader in the region.”

In reference to the renewed attempts to settle the Cyprus question, the officials said:

“The Vice President is going to Cyprus at a time of renewed hope and energy in the two communities as they work toward the comprehensive settlement to reunify the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots signed a joint declaration on February 11th in which the sides expressed their determination to resume settlement talks in a results-oriented manner, and they aim to reach a settlement as soon as possible. We’ve seen productive cross-visits of the negotiators to Ankara and to Athens, and we’ve seen several restorations in religious services that have helped increase cross-communal engagement. At the same time, the two sides have begun the second more substantive phase of negotiations, something that got underway on May 6th.”

The US senior officials said that “the course of his visit the Vice President will see the leaders of the two communities, as well as political, civil society and religious leaders who will play varying roles in this process, and members of the U.N. team that orchestrates the current talks’ process. We`re not coming to impose solutions or to pressure the two sides. This is about hearing Cypriot ideas for what a solution could look like. The Vice President will offer continued U.S. assistance as long as the sides find it useful.” They said that the Vice-President’s schedule would be to land at Larnaca airport on Wednesday 21st in the evening, where he will be met by Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides.

On Thursday morning he will be meeting with leaders of a variety of religious communities. “The Vice President sees interfaith cooperation and dialogue by religious leaders as a positive example of the kind of trust, reconciliation and respect that can be built across divides. And he will speak with these leaders in a roundtable format,” officials said.

From there, the Vice President will proceed to the Presidential Palace for a bilateral meeting with President Anastasiades.

“In the meeting, we expect the two leaders to discuss ways we can strengthen our bilateral cooperation to bolster regional security and prosperity. He’ll recognise Cyprus for its regional leadership in supporting the mission to eliminate chemical weapons from Syria. He’ll discuss the transatlantic community’s response to Russia’s illegal intervention and destabilising actions in Ukraine. And of course, they’ll also discuss the settlement negotiations process.”

After the bilateral meeting, they will have an official lunch at the palace, joined by members of the Cabinet and party leaders, and participants at that lunch will include former presidents, former speakers of the House, and other politicians.

Later in the afternoon, the Vice President will travel to the UN Buffer Zone, and there he’ll greet and give brief remarks to a gathering of leaders in business, politics and civil society from both communities.

He’ll be able to discuss with the civic leaders the important part that they can play in the process of creating a vision for the future of Cyprus following the settlement and supporting the leaders and negotiators during the settlement process.

“Some of the details of our schedule are still being finalized, including plans for the Vice President to see the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mr. Eroğlu, as well as other Turkish Cypriot party leaders from across the political spectrum, and from the U.N. Good Offices Mission. We believe these will be useful opportunities for the Vice President to hear Cypriot ideas on how they hope to shape their future, as well as to hear the views of the leaders and negotiators about how the current political environment and public perceptions are influencing settlement talks,” the officials said.

Replying to a question about Biden’s meeting with Turkish Cypriot leaders, the officials clarified that “some of the details of our schedule are still being finalised, including plans for the Vice President to see the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mr. Eroğlu, as well as other Turkish Cypriot party leaders from across the political spectrum. The Vice President intends to see Mr. Eroğlu to discuss with him how we can all work together — the Turkish Cypriot community, the Greek Cypriot community and the international community in support of them to work towards a settlement.”

“So that will be part of the Vice President’s visit, and this is a matter of working out some detail. We will have more information over the next hours and days as every aspect of the schedule gets finalised,” they added.

As to Turkey`s role in the negotiations, they said “the United States believes that every country in the region and Turkey and Greece being very important players should be supporting a settlement that leads to a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, and a better future for all of the — for both communities in Cyprus. And we’ve been pleased to see the role of Turkey in the cross-visits that took place that were very productive, and our understanding is that Turkey will continue to work to play a constructive role in these efforts as we go forward.”

And in that regard, “yes, we are obviously consulting with people in the government of Turkey, just as we do with people in the government of Greece and with leaders in both communities in Cyprus, and we expect that those consultations will continue as we move forward,” they concluded.

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