Washington.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
US Vice President Joe Biden has assured that the Cyprus problem is high among US foreign policy priorities and expressed support to efforts to reach a settlement that will reunify the island.
Addressing delegates to the congress of the International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA), during a close meeting at the White House, Biden said – according to the participants – that Turkey must realize that it is not in its interests to maintain troops in Cyprus and expressed certainty that reason and realism will prevail in the end.
Biden assured that the US administration raises the Cyprus problem with Turkish officials, and has made clear to Ankara and Eroglu that negotiations must continue between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus for a settlement.
We have done it in a way consistent with the Turkish interests, Biden said, adding that he thinks the Turkish leadership listens.
During an emotional appeal to the Greek Americans – whom he described as the most loyal ethnic group in America – he said Cyprus is the last remaining open division in Europe. It’s wrong and we have to change it. My greatest disappointment will be, after all these efforts, we were not able to reunify Cyprus.
He added that Turkish aspirations will not materialize if Cyprus continues to be divided and the religious rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate are not restored.
The Vice President also praised the efforts by Prime Minister George Papandreou to lead Greece to economic recovery.
The Prime Minister, Biden said, has inherited an awful financial situation during a deteriorating international economic climate and he has to make some tough decisions, asking people for sacrifices. You must admire his courage, because no matter who was the Prime Minister, he had to deal with an awfully difficult situation.
Biden expressed the U.S support for efforts to assist Greece through the IMF stressing that the United States cannot effort for Greece and EU to fail.
Cypriot Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou, who attended the meeting, confirmed Biden’s remarks and particularly that the Cyprus problem ranks high among his agenda.
”From there on everybody’s intentions will be proved in action. Not only those of the United States but also of all parties involved in the Cyprus problem,” Stephanou said speaking to the press.
He also said that the US role is important, adding that such remarks must be taken into account.
Reviewing the works of the PSEKA annual conference, Stephanou said it gave the opportunity to overseas Greek and Greek Cypriots to be briefed the on the course of the UN-led negotiations for a Cyprus solution, which resumed on Wednesday, May 26, and the aims of the Cypriot government.
”An effective enlightening campaign as well as the relations with various policy-making centres, need clear messages regarding the target for a solution (to the Cyprus problem), the policy we follow, as well as the priorities we have,” Stephanou said, noting that the conference gave the opportunity for coordination with overseas Greeks and Cypriots.
Alexis Galanos, Mayor of Famagusta, a city fenced-off since the 1974 Turkish invasion in Cyprus, who had the opportunity for a brief discussion with Biden, said that the US Vice President was ”well informed and spoke correctly on the Cyprus problem and its solution and he referred to the issue of Famagusta.”
”The significant issue is beyond words, to see a real US interest in pressing Turkey. He is an old and good friend ever since his term as Chairman of the Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs but we need to see some results,” Galanos said.
President of the Cyprus Federation of America Panicos Papanicolaou said Biden was sincere and expressed hope that soon such US policy on the Cyprus problem would be formed, which would allow the Greek side to hope for a settlement.
PSEKA President Philip Christopher said that if Biden and US President Barack Obama have the necessary courage, then the Cyprus problem will be solved.
Member of the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes George Tsounis said the Greek-American community and the Cypriots living in America never had a more sincere friend than Biden.