The US expect these next few weeks will be important for preparing the ground and injecting dynamism into any new process aimed at a solution to the division of Cyprus, American ambassador to John Koenig has said, stressing that now is the time to think more about the benefits of a Cyprus settlement.

Addressing the POMAK-PSEKA Conference in Nicosia on Thursday, Koenig said that “for the first time in a while there is renewed optimism that a solution is within reach”, adding that the US “sees an opportunity” for a settlement and believes “there are new possibilities brought on by recent events”, such as the election of Nicos Anastasiades, who “has been quite clear all along that he and his government are committed to finding a solution”.

“We expect these next few weeks will be important for preparing the ground and injecting a dynamism into any new process to ensure results” he added.

Ambassador Koenig said that the US policy has been consistent, as regards the basic outline of a solution based on the relevant UN resolutions.

“We support the creation of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with a single international identity,” he noted adding that the US would like to see this achieved via a negotiating process between the two parties under the auspices of the good offices of the United Nations.

The American ambassador noted that a solution “opens up new possibilities for the restructuring and broadening of the economy, it would remove barriers to foreign investment, rationalize economic and commercial activity in the region, and allow all Cypriots to enjoy a long-deserved peace dividend”.

He also said that the discovery of significant quantities of natural gas in off-shore areas of the Eastern Mediterranean “is another important new factor” in the environment for Cyprus settlement efforts.

He reiterated that the US supports the right of Cyprus to exploit the resources in its EEZ and expressed the view that “the eventual profits from those resources should be shared equitably among all Cypriots in the context of a solution to the division of Cyprus”.

He added that all parties should avoid actions that will increase tension and that exploration and development can continue in parallel with settlement talks.

Everyone clearly appreciates that full exploitation of the EEZ would be eased by a negotiated settlement, Koenig said.

The US ambassador said he sees a period of time when there will be increased engagement economically and politically between the United States and Cyprus.
As he said, “Cyprus” was prominent on Secretary Kerry’s list of world problems to address and resolve during his term.

“We have a mandate to build the economic and commercial relationship between the United States and Cyprus as part of a broader global agenda,” he indicated.

Koenig noted that since 1974, the United States has provided assistance worth more than $500 million to Cyprus and that the US will work to ensure a fitting legacy for the foreign assistance program, including by finding a new way for the 52-year old Cyprus Fulbright Commission to continue its work.

Certainly, PSEKA and other organizations representing Cypriots in the United States can play a very positive role in fostering these relationships and helping them grow, he noted.

Ambassador Koenig noted that Cyprus remains – both literally and figuratively – an island of stability in a troubled region and plays a central role in the development of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean that can have a profound impact on energy security in the region and beyond.

He noted that reaching a comprehensive settlement that would eliminate many of the uncertainties that linger, is the best way to enhance stability well beyond the shores of this island.

“Stability and certainty are related, and as any businessman can tell you, certainty is the coin of the realm. It makes many positive things possible. A settlement would help immeasurably in returning Cyprus to prosperity and open new prospects for growth. There are strong factors in play supporting progress toward the reunification of Cyprus. Now is the time to think more about the benefits of a Cyprus settlement, to think more creatively and more concretely,” Koenig stressed.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Repeated UN-led rounds of peace talks have so far failed to bring about a negotiated settlement that would reunite the country. Talks are expected to resume between the two Cypriot communities in autumn.

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