US Vice President Joe Biden met with Cypriot leaders as he seeks to drum up support for sanctions against Russia and looks for natural gas supply routes into Europe.
Biden met with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades around noon local time Thursday after talking with religious leaders from the divided island’s Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities in the morning. He arrived with a White House delegation including the US administration’s deputy assistant secretary for energy diplomacy, Amos Hochstein, showing that energy security is high on the agenda.
“Cyprus can be a bedrock of stability and prosperity in Europe and the Middle East,” Biden said late Wednesday after disembarking at Larnaca airport for the first visit by a US vice president to the country since 1962. “This relationship is now a genuine strategic partnership.”
The conflict between Ukraine and Russia has driven European nations to consider ways to reduce their reliance on Russian energy supplies. In Cyprus, where gas deposits have been found offshore, leaders are trying to leverage the attention to generate momentum in negotiations to reunite the island 40 years after Turkey’s invasion.
Biden will also meet Thursday with the leader of the breakaway state, Dervish Eroglu. The vice president tried to assuage the fears of the many Greek Cypriots who consider that the US was complicit in the island’s partition when its NATO ally Turkey invaded the northern part in 1974. The invasion was in response to a Greece-led coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with the country.
“The United States only recognizes one legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus,” Biden said Wednesday. “I came here on behalf of the United States to help you get a solution, not to present or impose one.”
Biden also said when he got off the plane that he will discuss sanctions against Russia with Anastasiades. The US and the European Union have already penalized individuals and companies over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and indicated industrywide sanctions may follow.
“We have to be resolute and united in the face of Russian intervention,” he said Thursday. [Bloomberg]