CNA – Emilia Christofi – Larnaca 21/05/2014 20:47
US Vice President Joe Biden clarified Wednesday that the US recognises only one legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus, and his visit on the island that began this afternoon, and his meetings will not change that.
In remarks upon his arrival Wednesday afternoon from Romania, Biden said Cyprus can and should be the bedrock of stability and opportunity for Europe and Eastern Mediterranean.
On the Cyprus problem, he said peace is always possible but it requires engagement not just from leaders but from citizens.
He also told throngs of media waiting for him at Larnaca International Airport that he has travelled to Cyprus today because “I believe this time can be different”.
In his remarks, Biden said he had been looking forward to this visit for a long time, since being elected to the US Senate in 1973. He acknowledged that he is the first US Vice President to be in Cyprus since Vice President Lyndon Johnson visited “this beautiful island”.
Biden said he is on the island at the invitation of President Nicos Anastasiades and the government of the Republic of Cyprus. “And I wanted to come to primarily underscore the value the US attaches to our growing cooperation with the Republic of Cyprus. This relationship is now a genuine strategic partnership. And it holds even greater promise”, he said, addressing Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides who greeted him and Jill Biden amid unprecedented security measures.
Biden said he looks forward to his talks on Thursday with President Anastasiades “to discuss a shared agenda. Cyprus` growing leadership in the eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus` support for the mission to eliminate chemical weapons from Syria and help prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Its role in Europe and in the regional energy security. And our continued cooperation on search and rescue, crisis response and counter-terrorism”.
The US Vice President said the two will also discuss events in Ukraine, adding “we have to be resolute and united in the face of Russian intervention”.
Biden touched upon the economic problems Cyprus has faced in the last year, noting “I know that the Cypriot people have faced tough economic challenges and have already made painful sacrifices”.
He said he is pleased to see the government “to make good on the progress of economic reform” and he believes that “the economy is beginning to turn a corner and we look forward to work with you to deepen our trade involvement and restore growth and prosperity”.
Turning his attention to the Cyprus problem, Buiden said “an important focus of our conversations will be the settlement process. I look forward to meeting with the leaders of the both communities”.
He underlined the US recognises only the government of the Republic of Cyprus. “The US, I want to be clear about this, recognises only one legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus. And my visit and meetings throughout the island, will not change that. It is my personal position, it is the position of the United States of America and it is the position of the entire world, save one country”, he stressed.
Biden remarked that it “is long past time, 40 years, that all Cypriots are reunited, in a bizonal, bicommunal federation” and that he has been encouraged by the steps that have recently been taken with the joint declaration on February 11, the visit of the Greek Cypriot negotiator in Ankara and the Turkish Cypriot negotiator to Athens. “Support from the international community and the seriousness of purpose we have seen in this process so far. After so many rounds of talks, and so many years of stalemate, it`s legitimate to ask a question whether this time can be any different”.
The US VP said when he thinks of that question, “I am reminded of the words of my friend and former colleague in the US, George Mitchell, the US envoy to Northern Ireland who said “we had 700 days of failure, and one day of success” referring to his mission to Northern Ireland. Peace is always possible. But it requires engagement not just from leaders but from citizens”, he emphasised.
In that respect, he said, he is encouraged to hear of the joint initiative from Cypriot political, civic and business leaders and historic religious services and dialogue and the restoration of sacred sites throughout the island.
Biden underlined that he is not bringing a peace plan to solve the Cyprus problem but that can only happen when Cypriots exercise the courage to make the vision of a solution real.
“Now I have heard that the local press assumes I am coming with a plan for peace in my back pocket to solve the Cyprus problem. I would like to put that rumour to rest. I came here on behalf of the US to help you get a solution, not to present or impose one. Many of you know that I have been personally following events in Cyprus for more than 40 years, long enough to know that only Cypriots can decide on a vision for your future, and only Cypriots can exercise the courage necessary to make that vision real. Imagine what can happen if you make sure that this time is different. That this time a solution is reached. It would mean incredibly greater prosperity, greater security, and a future of limitless possibilities for a generation free from the straight jacket that decades of division have imposed upon this island. This island can and should be the bedrock of stability and opportunity for Europe and Eastern Mediterranean”, he said.
The story of the 20th century in Europe, he said, “was one where barriers fell and peace and prosperity rose up in their place. That can and should happen on this beautiful island”.
The VP said he has travelled to Cyprus today “because I believe this time can be different. Whether it will depends on the people of this island”.
Biden said he looks forward to meeting as many Cypriots as he and his wife can to gain a better appreciation for their lives and their hopes. where I began.
Concluding, he thanked “President Anastasiades for his cooperation and for his efforts to help build a genuine strategic partnership with the US. A partnership between our countries that holds even greater promise in the future”.
The Vice President and his entourage were whisked off to the coastal town of Limassol and on Thursday ahead of a packed scheduled Thursday.
The Vice President will be received by President Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace where the two will hold a bilateral meeting and after an official lunch will make remarks to the press.
Earlier in the day, he will meet with interfaith leaders at Archbishop Chrysostomos II office at the Archbishopric On Thursday afternoon, the US Vice President will head to the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus for a meeting at the residence of Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu. He will hold a reception with members of the Civic Forum and will host dinner with political party leaders from both sides of the divide. Biden will make a press statement at the end of his talks, before departing from Cyprus.
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY