US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to arrive in Cyprus on Saturday evening, a day after surprising reporters on a plane en route to Doha saying he wanted to swing by the island to hear a fresh perspective on regional tensions.
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“I want to have a chance to talk to the leaders there in Cyprus about their perspective, their objectives,” said Pompeo.
Pompeo is expected to meet President Nicos Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia on Saturday evening.
The US state secretary as well as an Afghan delegation arrived in Qatar on Friday, September 11, where negotiations between the Taliban and Afghanistan's government were scheduled to begin Saturday.
'They need to sit down and have conversations about this and resolve this diplomatically. It is not useful to increase military tension in the region; only negative things can flow from that'
US President Donald Trump had announced that Pompeo would be present at the launch of the peace negotiations in Doha.
But news of a stopover in Cyprus caught diplomats and reporters by surprise, as a visit had been discussed in the past but not in this specific context.
Greek Cypriot media, however, noted that the visit was taking place at a pivotal time after tensions flared in August between Turkey and Greece, with the US possibly seeking a bigger role in helping towards a peaceful resolution.
Pompeo, who urged last week “everyone to stand down” in the ongoin dispute in the eastern Mediterranean, reportedly said his Cyprus visit would be a follow up on Trump’s phone calls to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriacos Mitsotakis.
“They need to sit down and have conversations about this and resolve this diplomatically. It is not useful to increase military tension in the region; only negative things can flow from that,” Pompeo said last week.
"So I'll be working on that project as well, trying to make sure that I understand the risks that are associated from the people of Cyprus' perspective," Pompeo told reporters on the Doha-bound plane.
The surprise visit to Cyprus is less than two months away from a highly contested election, where US President Donald Trump is seeking a second term in office.
Pompeo’s stopover also comes just days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited the island, where he accused Washington of fueling conflict instead of promoting peaceful solutions in the region.
Lavrov’s visit also came days after the US state secretary said he had decided to lift a small arms embargo against the Republic of Cyprus.
Russia’s top diplomat also brought along his country’s Deputy Finance Minister Alexey Sazanov, who signed an amended treaty on the avoidance of double taxation with the Republic of Cyprus.
Local media said it was not expected that Pompeo would be signing any bilateral agreements on his short visit, but media sources did not immediately rule out the possibility.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, Pompeo will hold talks with both Anastasiades and Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides at the Presidential Palace.
CNA reported that on the agenda for talks there would be Turkish activities in eastern Mediterranean, the enhancement of US-Cyprus relations, and the Cyprus problem, with Nicosia describing the visit as “significant” in light of the broader, ongoing developments in the region.
The US state secretary and the Cypriot president will make statements to the press after 10pm, following their meeting at the Presidential Palace.