When Washington says “over the next few weeks and months you will also see a little bit more action” in Cyprus “but in reality there will be things happening that we surely won’t advertise” then it is not something you can ignore.
These statements were made on Wednesday by Yuri Kim, US State Department Director at the Office of Southern European Affairs, who was on a panel discussion at the 35th PSEKA annual conference in Washington, which was attended by former US Ambassadors to Greece and Cyprus, Daniel Smith and Kathleen Doherty, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee minority side chief advisor Damien Murphy.
Based on reliable reporting by colleague Apostolis Zoupaniotis, there was discussion on the a number of aspects concerning the importance of Eastern Mediterranean Partnership for the USA and specifically cooperation issues on partnership between Greece and Cyprus with USA, energy, relations with Israel, US-Turkey relations, and the preconditions for lifting the arms embargo on Cyprus.
In order for the Washington plan to take hold, Turkish interests ought not to be ignored and the USA would not want them to be ignored
But what was the important thing that Yuri Kim said at the conference? “There are lots of things that we want to do and we need to do, but in these things you must keep in mind it’s a two-way street, it takes two to tango. For all the things we would like to do, we are going to need our partners on the island to also. They are showing they are ready, we still want to do more so we will keep that up. I believe over the next few weeks and months you will also see a bit more action, some involving strong congressional interest (always very helpful). But in reality there will be things happening that we surely won’t advertise.”
It takes two to tango
Reading between the lines is difficult except the obvious strong signal to both sides in Cyprus that “you must keep in mind it’s a two-way street, and it takes two to tango. For all the things we would like to do, we are going to need our partners on the island to do so as well.”
And on that day that Kim spoke at the PSEKA conference, US State Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Palmer was on his way to Cyprus and the American diplomat did not hold back her remarks.
“I think the first thing we are trying to do, and this mainly why Matthew went to Nicosia, is understand what is wanted and then decide how to get there… 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.”
This is what Palmer came here to assess, whether we did something or at least acted on what was agreed between USA and Cyprus in November. What are these things? Even though my source wasn’t very talkative when we spoke Thursday night, it is at least certain that Washington wishes for the Eastern Mediterranean to become an alternative energy hub for Europe.
Certainly Washington does not favour a pipeline to Turkey and in general doesn’t favour pipelines for energy security reasons. So the LNG option is surely ahead but it goes without saying that in order for the Washington plan to take hold, Turkish interests ought not to be ignored and the USA would not want them to be ignored.
A source with access to diplomatic circles noted that apparently Turkish companies could be offered stock options in energy companies that are active in the Eastern Mediterranean. Another piece of information points to a possible invitation that could be extended to Anastasiades and Akinci at the same time to visit the USA.
Einstein once said “intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them,” which begs the question of where do Cypriot politicians fit in all of this?
The article was first published by Kathimerini Cyprus on 9 June 2019