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18 July, 2024
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Cyprus and US tighten ties, visa-free travel and arms deals on the horizon

Amid regional conflicts, Cyprus seeks stronger role with US backing


According to a report written by Yiannis Ioannou, the consolidation of Cyprus-US strategic cooperation and the conclusion of a strategic dialogue agreement have significantly deepened Cypriot-US relations at a critical time, marked by the ongoing war in Ukraine and instability in the Eastern Mediterranean due to the Israel-Hamas conflict. This development also comes as the Cyprus issue enters uncharted waters.

Key practical aspects

Two key issues will be pivotal in assessing the effectiveness of the enhanced Cyprus-US relations: Cyprus' potential membership in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and the full lifting of the US arms embargo on the Republic of Cyprus, which has been partially lifted since October 1, 2022, but is pending complete removal in Congress since last May. These aspects, alongside advancements in energy, investment, and economic cooperation, signal a period of growth in Cypriot-American relations. The direction and impact of these relations remain to be seen, but Nicosia has clearly signaled its alignment with the West, and the US recognizes Cyprus' strategic potential in the region.

Internal perspectives

President Nicos Christodoulides emphasized the recognition of Cyprus' role in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East as a stable and reliable partner. This statement highlights the strengthening of the Republic of Cyprus (RoC). Addressing AKEL's critical stance on tightening relations with the US, Christodoulides reiterated the realistic approach of not seeking NATO membership directly. The resolution of the Cyprus problem and Turkey's stance are crucial factors in any potential NATO accession. Notably, coalition government parties DIPA and DIKO, along with opposition figure Averof Neofytou, welcomed the strategic agreement with the US.

Broader context

The strategic agreement comes at a pivotal time, reflecting Nicosia's clear orientation towards the West amid regional and international developments:

- Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing conflict have strained Russia-EU relations, affecting Nicosia-Moscow ties. President Christodoulides recently met with his Ukrainian counterpart, reaffirming support.
- By proactively engaging with the US ahead of potential shifts in American political power following upcoming elections, Nicosia ensures a structured dialogue with Washington, promising tangible benefits.
- This dialogue could provide crucial political support for Cyprus in resolving the Cyprus issue, particularly in the volatile Eastern Mediterranean where Turkey's role remains influential.

The RoC's shift towards the West is aligned with its European status and aims to restore its credibility, which has faced challenges in recent years. Upgrading Washington-Nicosia relations and seeking an enhanced role in the geopolitically significant Eastern Mediterranean remains a key objective for Cyprus.

Consequently, the Cyprus-US strategic cooperation agreement marks a significant deepening of relations at a time of regional tension and evolving geopolitical dynamics. The practical outcomes of this cooperation, particularly regarding the Visa Waiver Program and the lifting of the arms embargo, will be crucial in determining the long-term impact and effectiveness of this enhanced partnership.

Cyprus  |  USA  |  politics  |  diplomacy

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