NEW YORK – Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades’ visit to New York on the occasion of the opening session of the 69th UN General Assembly was packed with diplomatic appointments and contacts with community leaders.
The president’s schedule included the expected meetings with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Archbishop Demetrios of America, and Cypriot-American leaders, but he also had a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, which does not happen often in the context of the annual UN gathering. Media reports suggested Kerry would not have made time for the meeting unless he felt developments in the reunification talks merited it.
Anastasiades met with Kerry on September 21. Also present were Nicholas Emiliou and George Chacalli, Cyprus’ Ambassador to the UN and the U.S., respectively, Ioannis Kassoulides, the Foreign Minister, and several other high Cypriot officials including Koula Sophianou, Cyprus’ former Consul General in New York who now serves as director of the office of the Foreign Minister.
Secretary Kerry was accompanied by Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Jon Finer Deputy Chief of Staff, Charles Kupchan, Senior Director for European Affairs – National Security Council, Jen Pseki, Spokesperson and Amanda Sloat, Deputy Assistant Secretary.
Anastasiades told the press that the meeting was “absolutely productive and useful.” He said attention was focused on the new phase of the talks aimed at a Cyprus solution and the need for more energetic engagement and application of pressure by countries in a position to exert influence in ways that lead to catalytic developments.
Asked if thought is being given to the appointment of a special coordinator or representative of the president of the United States, Anastasiades said that was not discussed, but rather Kerry “demonstrated the great interest of the United States in there being progress on the Cyprus issue as soon as possible.”
Regarding Kerry’s recent conversations with Turkish officials about Cyprus, Anastasiades said the Secretary of State “gave the impression that Turkey means what it says…but this can only be made clear through concrete action. That is why an elevated role for the United States can contribute to the existence of attitudes and behaviors that we hope this time will lead to concrete developments.”
A high-level State Department official said during a special press briefing about the meeting: “With Cypriot President Anastasiades, the focus was very much on the renewed peace talk efforts and the appointment of a new UN special envoy to support those talks…The secretary made clear how strongly the United States supports the work that is going on between the sides.”
The secretary also “made clear that he intends to be personally engaged and to help push the process forward as he can. He made clear that the subject of Cyprus and getting – and injecting new energy into the talks also came up on his recent trip to Ankara, and that we will remain very much engaged, including this week when there will be a number of other meetings both with the parties and with Espen Barth Eide,” the new UN special envoy.
The official said that the subject of Ukraine also came up, and noted that “Cyprus has been stalwart within the EU in continuing to support the costs that we’ve had to impose on Russia, and particularly the sanctions. They are paying a price economically. The Secretary obviously thanked Cyprus for its solidarity.”
Nikos Christodoulides, the Cyprus government spokesman, told TNH that the meeting with Kerry confirmed that the recent statements of Vice President Joe Biden about the Cyprus issue and the importance of the America’s strategic relations with Cyprus constitute positions of American foreign policy.
With respect to the Cyprus talks, he said Kerry expressed interest in visiting Cyprus if his presence would promote progress. “He informed us about discussions he had in Ankara and discussion he will have this week with Turkish officials, and acknowledged that Cyprus was high on the agenda,” and Christodoulides agreed with the president of Cyprus that Turkey must move from making statements to taking actions.
In a UN statement about Anastasiades’ meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, it was noted that Anastasiades “discussed progress made in the negotiations aimed at achieving a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus following the adoption of a Joint Declaration by the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders on February 11. The secretary-general and the president also discussed climate change, global efforts to fight terrorism and the threat posed by ISIL, and the Ebola epidemic.”
Anastasiades will be the guest of honor at Terrace on the Park on September 26 for the Cyprus Federation of America’s Award Gala which will honor the American Jewish Committee (AJC).