John Kerry Eyes Role in Cyprus Peace Process

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John Kerry Eyes Role in Cyprus Peace Process

File Photo: US Secretary of State John Kerry

Washington:  US Secretary of State John Kerry is planning to dip his toes into yet another of the world's intractable conflicts, announcing Tuesday he will visit Cyprus in the coming weeks.

Meeting with Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides at the State Department, Kerry praised the Mediterranean island's current Greek Cypriot leadership for trying to reach a "long sought-after resolution" to its four-decade division.

"We have been working on the issue of trying to find a peace for Cyprus, a reunification of the island on a bizonal, bicommunal federation," Kerry said.

Communal fighting between Greek- and Turkish Cypriots broke out in 1964, culminating 10 years later in a Turkish invasion of the northern third after a coup engineered by Greece's military dictatorship aimed at reunifying the island.

Turkish Cypriot leaders in 1983 declared a breakaway state which is recognized only by Ankara.

The two sides relaunched peace talks aimed at reunifying Cyprus in February after a two-year hiatus, with the US believed to have played a major behind-the-scenes role in helping kickstart the resumed negotiations.

But several previous rounds of talks have failed, in part because of still-raw emotions on both sides of the UN-patrolled Green Line that divides the two communities.

Kerry said the United States was "very supportive" of the resumed talks held under the auspices of the UN.

"It's my hope to be in Nicosia and perhaps in Athens somewhere in the next weeks if not early months," announced the top US diplomat, who has made the search for a Middle East peace deal his personal quest.

He said of Cyprus that "we want to try to be helpful in this process" and pointed to "new economic opportunities in the energy sector."

Kasoulides, holding his second talks at the State Department in the past 12 months, said a resolution to the Cyprus problem "is very pertinent."

"We need the assistance and interest of the international community," he stressed, adding he believed "the circumstances are appropriate to push in order to find a settlement to this chronic" problem.

US Vice President Joe Biden is to visit Cyprus later this month as part of efforts to find ways to counter what Washington sees as Russia's destabilizing actions in Ukraine.

Cyprus is seen in the White House as one of the European governments most resistant to toughening sanctions against Russia, including "sectoral" measures directly targeting Moscow's economy.

Russians have billions of dollars in euros deposited in banks in Cyprus, and the government's resistance to further sanctions threatens a joint US-European Union effort to preserve a united front in punishing Russia.


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