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20 July, 2024
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Nicosia revives US visa waiver talks but conceals details

President says VWP example of good relations with Washington where sanctions approach ‘in line’ with Nicosia


Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides suggested on Monday that ongoing efforts to secure a US visa waiver was an example of a “new level of relations” between Nicosia and Washington, while providing little details on the process but adding that his government’s position on sanctions against Russia was “in line” with American goals as outlined recently by the US Ambassador.

Christodoulides, who was attending an energy workshop for oil companies in Cyprus, was asked by reporters to comment on US Ambassador Julie Fisher’s interview with Phileleftheros, where she said recent sanctions were imposed not to target Cypriot citizens but to stop Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“I believe that her remarks on all the issues are important and in line with our approach, both on the issue of sanctions and the response by the Republic of Cyprus, as well as the future of our bilateral relations that have evolved in the last few years to a very significant extent,’’ Christodoulides said.

In her interview published on Sunday the ambassador had dismissed claims that suggested Washington was twisting Nicosia’s arm on sanctions, saying she was “impressed by the commitment on the part of the President as well as his government regarding cooperation between our two countries.”

'Recently President Christodoulides threw down a challenge as to what the two countries could do so that there can be specific outcomes for our citizens' Fisher said

Fisher also revealed that Christodoulides had recently brought up specific issues that affect citizens of both countries.

“Recently President Christodoulides threw down a challenge as to what the two countries could do so that there can be specific outcomes for our citizens,” Fisher said.

The president elaborated on those issues, telling reporters on Monday that one example out of her initial contact with Fisher since he was elected was the Visa Waiver Program.

Back in 2020, Christodoulides who was serving as foreign minister at the time, met with US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Carl Risch, who was paying a working visit to the island. The US diplomat, who was also traveling to Greece and had previously served as acting chief of staff for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, made the trip to “underscore our deep and sustained commitment to the protection of US citizens overseas and the facilitation of legitimate travel to the United States.”

Under the VWP, Cypriot passport holders who obtain an e-passport embedded with an electronic chip would be able to arrive at a US Port of Entry and seek admission to travel within the United States for up to 90 days under the B-1 business or B-2 tourism visa categories without applying in advance for a visa at the American Embassy.

The visa waiver does not remove the visa category for the traveler but eliminates the need for applying at a US embassy or having a face-to-face interview with a US consular officer prior to the trip.

President appoints VWP coordinator

Christodoulides said his government had a road map on the visa waiver program, currently administered in dozens of countries, which is based on reciprocity where US citizens would be allowed to enjoy the same benefits in the participating countries.

“I have appointed a coordinator as several ministries are involved in the matter, and [this person] is now working with US authorities and agencies to push this forward,” Christodoulides said.

The president did not name the Cypriot official in charge of the visa waiver effort. Three years ago former interior minister Nicos Nouris and former justice minister George Savvides, who now serves as Attorney General, aldo took part in the discussion with Risch.

But Christodoulides declined to give specific details adding that a timeframe for the VWP was in place but he did not wish to reveal it publicly.

The president also said attracting US investments was another domain getting attention as the two countries worked together.

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