US Ambassador Talks Energy, Cyprus Problem

US Ambassador Talks Energy, Cyprus Problem

John KoenigThe reunification of Cyprus continues to be a top priority for the US, ambassador John Koenig said on Wednesday, and he urged Turkey to contribute to the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.

Koenig made the comment in his address to the 25th conference of the Central Council at the International Coordinating Committee “Justice for Cyprus” (PSEKA).

“Relations between the US and Cyprus have never been stronger than they are today and the relationship continues to deepen in a wide variety of ways,” the ambassador noted.

He said that US Vice President Joe Biden`s visit to Cyprus in May was the first in 52 years and a “watershed moment” in the relations between the two governments. “The visit was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of our intensified relationship with the Republic of Cyprus.”

Koenig mentioned that US Secretary of State John Kerry had made it clear that he wanted to visit Cyprus at the appropriate time. “And I think that will be soon and we look forward to taking advantage of that visit not only to have him engage with the Cypriots but also to advance the agenda for a Cyprus solution and our bilateral relationship,” he added.

Koenig also referred to Cypriot officials’ visits to Washington and to President Nicos Anastasiades’ decision to reorient Cyprus’ foreign policy toward the West. This had made the most significant contribution to the strengthening of relations between the two countries, he said. “Without that decision, this new strategic partnership would not be possible.”

“We have seen a number of US companies set up shop in Cyprus in the past year, to position themselves to support the growing energy economy on the island and the region while there have been major investments in banking and tourism. These investments are a vote of confidence by American investors in the Cyprus economy and a statement of the clear belief that Cyprus has turned the corner economically and is becoming an increasingly important economic partner for the US,” Koenig said.

He expressed hope that the government would continue on the path of restructuring the foreclosures bill as it would be helpful to restore confidence in the banking sector.

On the Cyprus problem, the ambassador said it was “critically important” that Turkey contributed to the efforts for a Cyprus settlement and one of the issues was to discuss how effectively Turkey could make a contribution.

“The benefits of a settlement are absolutely unmistakable,” he said. A solution would enable Cyprus to not only chart a course for itself to a more secure and prosperous future, but to also make a significant contribution to the stability of the region. “And it would enable Cyprus to be an even stronger partner for the United States.” The US was looking forward to working with the UN’s new Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide but compromise and reconciliation were going to be needed, as was commitment from the two sides, and from Turkey.

“The US commitment to help Cypriots find a solution to the Cyprus problem pre-dates by several decades the discovery of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean,” said Koenig.

“While it is clearly US policy to promote diverse, secure and affordable sources of energy, those who suggest that this heightened American interest in Cyprus is all about oil and gas misread history and fail to see the larger picture. The US has always sought closer relations with Cyprus and welcomes Cyprus’ new openness to working with us.”

Asked by delegates whether steps had been taken for an Anastasiades visit to Washington, Koening said they were looking at the schedule of the meetings that would be held during the UN General Assembly later this month. On a possible meeting with US President Barack Obama, Koenig said it was something Nicosia and Washington had in mind “because first of all there has never been a President of Cyprus who has so firmly supported relations with the US as Nicos Anastasiades but they [meetings] take a long time to plan and we would not be looking in the next several months. Maybe in 2015 or 2016. I would love to see it happen before I leave my post,” he said.