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12° Nicosia,
20 July, 2024
 
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Nicosia looks to Washington for key defense and visa policy changes

A well-informed source, who spoke to ''K'', said that Nicosia expects ''good news'' from Washington ''soon and possibly by the end of this year''.

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In a bid to strengthen its relationship with the United States, Cyprus is focusing on two crucial dossiers: lifting the U.S. arms embargo and joining the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. According to an article in Kathimerini's Sunday edition by Pavlos Xanthoulis, these goals are part of the ongoing US-Cyprus Strategic Dialogue, with expectations that both could be achieved by the end of 2024.

Cypriot officials believe the removal of the arms embargo would allow for more effective defense planning, currently hindered by the annual assessment requirement. The bipartisan "Cyprus Embargo Ending Act" pending in Congress proposes extending this assessment to a five-year period, which would significantly benefit Nicosia's defense capabilities.

Additionally, Cyprus aims to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which would permit Cypriot citizens to travel to the U.S. without a visa. Recent bilateral agreements on travel data and an anticipated data-sharing agreement mark significant steps toward this goal. The final hurdle remains reducing the U.S. visa refusal rate for Cypriots to below 3%.

The strengthening of Cypriot-American relations has raised hopes for U.S. support in resolving the Cyprus issue. A senior Cypriot official expressed optimism for "good news" from Washington by the end of this year, although acknowledging potential delays due to the upcoming U.S. elections.

The launch of the US-Cyprus Strategic Dialogue on June 17, following a meeting between Foreign Ministers Anthony Blinken and Konstantinos Kombos, has institutionalized and structured the partnership, covering areas such as energy security and crisis management. This deepening relationship is seen as a strategic advantage for the U.S., exemplified by the withdrawal of U.S. citizens from the Middle East via Cyprus during recent conflicts.

At the launch, Foreign Minister Kombos emphasized Cyprus's role as a reliable partner in a complex region, highlighting the country's shared values with the U.S., including democracy, the rule of law, and opposition to aggression.

Despite these advancements, Cyprus must navigate its relationship with Turkey, a key U.S. ally. The balanced approach of Washington toward Ankara, including leveraging Turkey's unpredictable nature, could potentially aid in progressing the Cyprus settlement process, a leverage point the EU currently lacks.

The US-Cyprus Strategic Dialogue is seen as a significant step forward. Eddie Zemenides, Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, noted that Cyprus is no longer "held hostage" by Turkey, signaling a robust future for Cypriot-American relations.

The first meeting of the US-Cypriot delegations is scheduled for September, set to further solidify this burgeoning strategic partnership.

TAGS
Cyprus  |  USA  |  defense  |  diplomacy

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