Washington DC.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides who was last week in Washington attending the 30th PSEKA conference, held several meetings with U.S. official at the State Department and the National Security Council, discussing the Cyprus problem, as well as bilateral and regional issues.
On Tuesday he met with Christopher Smart, Special Assistant to the President at The White House. He also met with Eric Rubin, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy Amos J Hochstein. While on Thursday he met with US Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Amanda Sloat.
With Amanda Sloat they discussed bilateral relations between Cyprus and the USA, including a meeting between President Anastasiades with Vice President Joe Biden in September. The United States are especially interested in bilateral issues, and talks with the Cypriot government have now moved onto specific matters.
Furthermore, they discussed the Cyprus problem, with Sloat reaffirming the steadfast position of the US Administration for a bizonal bicommunal federation with political equality.
During all his meetings with the American officials, in bilateral affairs, the discussion was a continuation of the talks Vice President Joe Biden had in Nicosia in May and last week`s meetings of Amanda Sloat.
The Spokesman discussed issues which the two countries can further develop. Diplomatic sources said that the American officials acknowledge that Cyprus has additional value in many issues of international interest for which the US has powerful interests and it was agreed to continue the dialogue at all levels.
Regarding the confidence building measures, the sources said the US acknowledge the value of President of the Republic’s proposal and expect Turkey to become more involved in the Cyprus issue after the August presidential elections.
They also discussed energy issues and developments in Ukraine. The sources said that the Cyprus sensitivities were explained during the meetings and as a EU member state, Cyprus is following common decisions. A preliminary discussion was held on President Nicos Anastasiades` visit to Washington in September.
Speaking to journalists after the conclusion of the conference, Dr. Christodoulides said that the main outcome of his meetings in Washington is that the upgraded geostrategic role of Cyprus in the Mediterranean has changed the agenda of talks with the US.
“Apart from the Cyprus problem, which is always on the agenda of our discussions, other issues have been added that attach great significance to the Cyprus Republic, something that is evident in the discussions”, he remarked.
He also said that the aim is for the upgraded role of the Cyprus Republic to be fully utilized to achieve the main strategic role which is a solution to the Cyprus problem.
Dr. Christodoulides said that the core of the issues discussed with the US officials is that “we have to work towards a specific direction that will lead in a certain time frame, an upgrading our relations through specific actions. Meaning, a strategic partnership and cooperation to come to fruition through specific decisions that will be announced”, adding that the next 18 months should not be solely associated with the Cyprus problem.
WITH STAFF MEMBERS
Briefing staffers of over U.S. Members of Congress during an event was organised in collaboration with the Hellenic American Leadership Council and the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance, Christodoulides talked about energy and bilateral issues. In his speech, Christodoulides referred to the renewed interest in developments in Cyprus, and by extension in developments in the turbulent, fragile – but also uniquely promising – region of the Eastern Mediterranean.
He said his presence coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
The Spokesman said he is in the US at a time when relations between Cyprus and the United States of America have entered a new era. “Never before have our two countries worked together so closely on an array of issues, including counter-terrorism, crisis response, human and drug trafficking, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons”, he pointed out.
Christodoulides said “this new era in bilateral relations was made evident by the Vice President’s visit to Cyprus in May, the first visit to Cyprus by a US Vice-President since 1962”. It has been followed just last week by visits by the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs.
He noted the tightening and strengthening of relations “is the direct result of our conscious effort to reorient our foreign policy. Cyprus’s new approach aims to utilize its geostrategic location and to firmly position Cyprus as a key player within the western security system”.
Christodoulides said his presence in Washington also coincides with the energy transformation that is taking place in the Eastern Mediterranean. Exploration and exploitation activities in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus have revealed significant quantities of natural gas. Exciting discoveries have also been made in the exclusive economic zone of Israel, while there are potential discoveries offshore Greece, Egypt and Lebanon.
The involvement, he said, of international energy giants such as the US firm Noble Energy, the French company Total, and the Italian-Korean consortium ENI-KOGAS testifies to the incredible potential that exists.
These energy developments, he added, can be a game changer in the region as they provide the opportunity for the Eastern Mediterranean to become a global energy hub. In doing so it can provide energy security for Europe through the creation of an alternative energy corridor. Christodoulides said everyone can appreciate the importance of diversification of energy routes in the context of the current crisis in Ukraine.
He remarked that we “are witnessing a flourishing cooperation between Israel and Cyprus. It is relationship, he remarked, that is essentially redrawing the geopolitical map of the eastern Mediterranean and one that directly concerns the United States”.
The Spokesman said the reunification of Cyprus will undoubtedly have a decisive and positive influence in a region where peace and stability have proven to be an expensive commodity.
Regarding efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem, Christodoulides talked about the 11th of February Joint Declaration, which sets the framework of the basic parameters within which to negotiate. “During this second phase, we expect, as does the UN, comprehensive proposals on all chapters to be submitted and to be discussed. We cannot continue the past practice of concentrating solely on chapters that interest the Turkish Cypriot side, such as power sharing, without discussing inter-dependently – as called for by the Joint Declaration – all chapters, including territory, security guarantees, citizenship and settlers”.
The Spokesman said that “although the extreme positions presented by the Turkish side are deeply worrying, we are determined to continue negotiating constructively and creatively, always within the agreed UN framework for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, with political equality, as set out in the relevant Security Council Resolutions and the High Level Agreements”.
Christodoulides noted the “direct engagement of Turkey is vital and this is an assessment that the US fully shares”. A solution, he said, “will enable Turkey to claim a much needed foreign policy success – given the collapse of its ‘zero problems with neighbours’ policy – it will enable Turkey to be part of the regional co-operation underway in the field of energy, and will boost its accession path to the European Union”.
He recalled that President Anastasiades has put on the table a comprehensive proposal that leads to a win-win result for all parties. Unfortunately, he said, “it proved impossible as the Turkish side remained intransigent. Nevertheless, we have signaled to the United States that we are ready to resume our efforts”.