US vice president’s visit to Cyprus sparks debate in Turkish domestic politics

US vice president’s visit to Cyprus sparks debate in Turkish domestic politics

US vice president’s visit to Cyprus sparks debate in Turkish domestic politics

A municipality worker places a US flag and Greek Cypriot flag on an electricity column, on a street in divided Nicosia ahead of Joe Biden’s visit to the island. AP Photo

As U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will journey to Cyprus today for a historical visit to the Island, the main opposition party in Turkey has suggested that the Turkish government has imposed a plan prepared by the U.S. administration on Turkish Cypriots.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu paid a visit to the island over the weekend in order to “push Turkish Cypriots for a primary package that was served by the U.S. and accepted by the foreign minister,” deputy chair of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Faruk Loğoğlu said in a written statement yesterday.

Citing Biden’s visit to the Island, along with an expected visit from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, “gives the impression that the Justice and Development [AKP] government is implementing a scenario step by step,” Loğoğlu said, noting Davutoğlu’s remarks during a recent visit to Turkish Cyprus affirms this impression. Loğoğlu said Davutoğlu’s foreign policy on Cyprus should be questioned.

The CHP chair said his party sides with a fair and lasting settlement on agreed principles.

The U.S. and the EU are throwing their weight about Cyprus due to energy security concerns, “but one should resist against pressure,” Loğoğlu said.

The Turkish side should not make any concessions on the issues of Varosha, an exclusive economic zone, oil and gas “under guise” of confidence building measures, Loğoğlu said, adding that those would only be for “short term political acquisitions, but not long term.”

Biden will meet leaders of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots separately and hold a meeting with religious leaders from the two communities on May 22. He will be the first sitting Vice President to visit Cyprus since Lyndon Johnson in 1962, and the most senior American official to visit Cyprus since that time.

“The Vice President is going to Cyprus at a time of renewed hope and energy in the two communities, as they work toward the comprehensive settlement to reunify the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation,” according to a senior U.S. administration official.

“The discovery of hydrocarbons in the Cypriot EEZ could position Cyprus, we believe, as an energy and economic leader in the region,” said the official.

“We’re not coming to impose solutions or to pressure the two sides.  This is about hearing Cypriot ideas for what a solution could look like.  The Vice President will offer continued U.S. assistance as long as the sides find it useful,” the official noted.

Meanwhile, EU Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Biden’s visit to Cyprus does not have a specific agenda, but aims to give support to the peace talks.