ATHENS – Former US Vice President Joe Biden, ahead of being a keynote speaker at the June 6-7 Concordia Summit in Greece’s capital, has joined a chorus of international leaders who believe Cyprus can still be reunified even though negotiations have collapsed.
In an interview with the newspaper Kathimerini, Biden said the prospect of energy being found off Cyprus’ coast has heightened the likelihood a solution can be found between Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who now aren’t talking.
“The discovery of natural gas in Cyprus, Israel and Egypt, and the potential for discoveries in Greece and Lebanon can bring economic prosperity in the aforementioned countries, but also strengthen security in the broader region,” he said.
He told the newspaper that a solution to the Cyprus issue – an objective on which he has worked in the past – “lies within reach,” adding that reunification could maximize benefits from the Mediterranean island’s hydrocarbon reserves.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, has upset the momentum with plans to send an energy research vessel into Cypriot waters where the government has licensed international companies, including a US firm, to begin drilling in July.
Erdogan has said he will keep a Turkish army “forever” on the northern third of the island seized by Turkey in an unlawful 1974 invasion, another condition that led Anastasiades to walk away and refuse to return to Geneva, Switzerland for more negotiations.
Biden though appeared optimistic even though the United Nations’ Special Envoy, Espen Barth Eide, threw in the towel after trying to almost two years to get the two leaders on Cyprus to come to terms as he joined a long line of diplomats who’ve failed to find an answer.
Biden though said that, “We have a unique window of opportunity now to resolve the conflict in Cyprus so that future generations of Cypriots can live in peace, harmony, and prosperity. The two sides are close to a resolution, but they will only succeed in crossing the finish line if the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot leaders are granted the political space to finalize the terms for reunifying the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
He added that’s why, “We we must never lose sight of the fact that a reunification of the island holds enormous benefits for all Cypriots. A settlement will not only open up financial resources from the international community and private sector, it could also help maximize the economic benefits of Cyprus’s offshore hydrocarbon reserves.”
The US has also been trying to broker a solution to the long-standing problem that has eluded everyone for more than four decades and former Secretary of State John Kerry, who served in the same Administration with Biden under then-President Barack Obama, kept predicting breakthroughs, as did Eide before he gave up too.