Aspects of the importance, for the United States, of the Eastern Mediterranean Cooperative were presented in a discussion that took place on the first day of the 35th Congress of PSEKA in Washington, a panel that included the former US Ambassadors in Greece and Cyprus Daniel Smith and Kathleen Doherty, Director of the Office of Southern European Affairs Yuri Kim and Senior Professional Staff Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Damian Murphy.
The debate, as reported by the US and our colleague Apostolis Zoupaniotis, covered issues such as the cooperation of Greece and Cyprus with the US, energy, relations with Israel, US-Turkish relations and the efforts to lift the embargo. During the talks, Yuri Kim also referred to the visit, which began today, of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer in Cyprus and who, according to a source of the Foreign Ministry, will meet with Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides on Thursday.
Ms. Kim also said that much of the visit is related to the issue of the restrictions imposed by the embargo (ITAR). “I think the first thing we are trying to do, and that’s mainly why Matthew Palmer visited Nicosia, is to understand what we want and then to figure out how to get there. The issue of the International Arms Traffic Regulation (ITAR) is full of symbolism, and therefore emotional. But what we tried to do is very clearly that we need to review again the Eastern Mediterranean, as a whole, and our interests. We did that. Now we have to figure out the practical steps. And so the discussion took place when we asked Nicosia the question what are they expecting… The comprehensive answer is included in the declaration of intent we signed together in November.”
Strategic dialogue also with Athens
Ms. Kim said the US has clearly stated that the strengthening of its relationship with Cyprus is in the interest of the United States, as is the strengthening of its relationship with Greece, which is why they started the strategic dialogue with Athens. Regarding the bilateral relations between Cyprus and the United States, she states that many practical steps have been taken and this will continue.
“This is precisely why Matthew Palmer is now on a plane to Nicosia”, also referring to other recent visits of US officials to Cyprus for terrorism issues, fight against money laundering etc. There are many things we want to do and we must do, but for these things, keep in mind that the road is two-way. It takes two to tango. For all the things we would like to do, we will also need our partners on the island. They show that they are ready, we still want to do more in order to maintain this. I think that in the coming weeks and months you will see a little more action. Some are related to the strong interest for the Congress (which is always very useful). But in reality things will happen that we will certainly not advertise.”
Responding to a question about the US stance on UNFICYP, she said it has to do with the criteria set by Americans for peacekeeping operations in general and not specifically for UNFICYP.
“One of these is to have an exit strategy. The second is that peacekeeping operations should exist for the support of the peace process and not in its place. Since the collapse of talks two years ago, the negotiation front is “fairly dead”. Therefore, we need to show that there is progress in this area, if the continuation of UNFICYP is to be maintained. The government’s view is that taxpayers’ money is valuable.”
However, she made clear that nobody is asking for dramatic moves at the moment.
For Turkey and the S-400 she said she could bet that it will get out of hand, because there is a very good relationship between the leaders of the two countries.