NICOSIA, Cyprus — US Vice President Joe Biden travels Wednesday to Cyprus to discuss the country’s reunification efforts and its ability to tap gas deposits, which could turn the east Mediterranean island into a source of stability in a tumultuous region.
Biden, the most senior American official to visit Cyprus since his predecessor Lyndon Johnson in 1962, is expected to voice support for talks to reunify the island, which was divided along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
A peace deal would have regional repercussions as it could help mend strained relations between key US regional allies Turkey and Israel. Those countries fell out after Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish ship trying to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010.
A reunified Cyprus could also act as a conduit to transport Cypriot and Israeli gas to Europe through Turkey via a pipeline, helping to reduce the continent’s energy dependence on Russia, which has threatened to cut deliveries amid the Ukrainian crisis.
“If diplomacy succeeds, energy resources could therefore provide the impetus required to resolve deep and longstanding disputes,” said Sofronis Clerides, an economics professor at the University of Cyprus.
US company Noble Energy is already involved in developing the island’s sole proven gas field, along with Israeli partners Delek and Avner.
Biden’s visit comes on the invitation of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who has realigned Cyprus’ policies more in favor of the US and Europe in contrast to his predecessor, a move the US administration has welcomed.
Biden will also delve into the possibility of stronger sanctions against Russia over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
But bailed-out Cyprus relies on Russian tourists and bank deposits to buoy its weakened economy and doesn’t want to harm its long-standing relationship with Moscow. The Cypriot government favors excluding some EU countries from a harsher sanctions regime or granting them the ability to opt out.
However, the US believes that “speaking with one voice” on sanctions is best when confronting Russia over Ukraine, a senior US administration official said on condition of anonymity.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.
The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.
We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.
Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.