Turkish Deputy PM hails Biden's visit to Cyprus

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Turkey sees 'constructive' contributions being made by EU and US towards Cyprus issue

Turkey sees 'constructive' contributions being made by EU and US towards Cyprus issue

ANKARA – Turkey's deputy prime minister has hailed U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Cyprus and the U.S. contribution towards peace talks over the island.

Besir Atalay's comments on Wednesday came during a press conference in the Turkish capital of Ankara, as Biden was set to arrive in Cyprus on the first trip of a sitting American Vice President there since 1962.

"This time the Cyprus negotiations are going efficiently," Atalay said. "We see the constructive contributions by the EU and the U.S. as actually helpful."

Biden may meet Turkish Cypriot leaders this week in a bid to further the peace process.

Meanwhile, the Head of Turkey’s Foreign Relations Commission, Volkan Bozkir, told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday in Washington that the main reason for the raised expectations over the Cyprus issue was because the economic welfare gap and income between the two sides of the island had shrunk.

- 'Huge' peace effort

Underlining that newly discovered offshore natural gas reserves were also a catalyst, Bozkir said Turkey was the most viable option for transporting the resource through pipelines to international markets.

Asked about the U.S.’ role in the Cyprus peace talks, Bozkir said the country had made a huge effort in the process and had achieved what the European Union could not.

“Biden’s visit will increase the pace of the peace talks in a positive manner, as he respects the leaders of both sides of the island equally,” he said.

Biden’s visit comes as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Greek Cypriot administration continue peace talks aimed at resolving the conflict that led to the partition of the island 40 years ago.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when a Greek military coup that attempted to unify the island with Greece was followed by a Turkish military intervention to protect Turkish Cypriots.

- High-profile visit

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized solely by Turkey, whereas the Greek Cypriot administration in southern Cyprus, an EU member, is recognized internationally.

The White House announced last week that Biden would travel to Cyprus after a trip to Romania.

He will become the highest-profile U.S. statesman after a 1962 visit by then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson.

Biden will meet Turkish Cypriot party leaders, including Dervis Eroglu, the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and Greek Cypriot administration leader Nicos Anastasiades.

They will discuss cooperation between Washington and Lefkosa, regional affairs, and a solution to the dispute over the long-divided eastern Mediterranean island.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency