AHI Policy Conference Explores Cyprus Issue after 40 Years
WASHINGTON, DC —The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted the policy conference titled, “The Cyprus Issue: Forty Years Later,” featuring two panels of experts who examined various aspects of the topic on September 30, 2014 at the Capital Hilton, Washington, DC. The audience also received greetings and remarks from Ambassador of Cyprus to the U.S. George Chacalli, Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Christos Panagopoulos, and AHI Founder Eugene Rossides.
“2014 has brought developments to the Cyprus issue that warrants our examination and analysis,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “These developments included the resumption of settlement talks, a bolstered U.S-Cyprus relationship, Vice President Biden’s historic May visit, the sustained trilateral relationship between Cyprus, Greece, and Israel; and Turkey’s national election and its impact on settlement talks.”
The first panel featured: Professor Andreas Theophanous, department head, European Studies and International Relations, and president, Center for European and International Affairs, University of Nicosia; Nicholas Karambelas, Esq., AHI legal counsel; and Doug Bandow, senior fellow, Cato Institute. James Marketos, Esq. partner, Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe, LLP, and AHI board member, moderated the panel.
Each of the panelists brought their unique perspective and expertise to the seminar topic.
Speaking on the topic, “Erdogan and Davutoglu: What Can We Expect from Them,” Professor Theophanous stated candidly that President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu do not allow Cypriots to have the same vision for Cyprus. He added that Cyprus is not the most important of issues for the new president and prime minister of Turkey and that they are “open” and “blunt” when speaking about policy on Cyprus. For example, Professor Theophanous stated how Turkey maintains a policy on Cyprus encourages and incentivizes a “population boom” in the occupied area.
AHI Legal Counsel Karambelas’ topic, “International Law, National Sovereignty & the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): Cyprus as a Textbook Case,” focused on explaining the legal foundation of the EEZ as defined under the Law of the Sea Treaty. He stated that Cyprus has declared its EEZ under the Law of the Sea Treaty and noted that the United States, Israel, and Turkey are three nations that have not ratified the Treaty. Using maps to illustrate his points, Karambelas identified Turkey’s claims on Cyprus’s EEZ to the island’s north, east, and south and provided perspective on these claims and why they are unfounded. He concluded that there has to be a resolution of these legal issues, and subsequently a Cyprus settlement, for Cyprus to exploit the energy resources found in its EEZ.
Bandow concluded the first panel with remarks on the topic, “The Emerging Strategic Relationship of Israel, Greece and Cyprus.” He commented on the topic, stating it is an important one because the relationships of countries with Israel have implications for their relations with the United States. He also offered an overview of Washington’s perception of Turkey over the years, once viewed as “indispensable,” was now changing due to the demise of Turkey’s secular and democratic nature. In addition, Bandow described the Turkish-Israeli relationship as being “much more questionable” today, and he questioned Turkey’s desire to be part of Europe under Erdogan’s leadership. Turning to the trilateral relationship that is growing between Israel, Greece, and Cyprus, Bandow stated that Greece and Cyprus can be a “beachhead” into Europe for Israel. He added that there is a shared interest between the three countries with regard to economic, development and where Turkey is going as a nation as well as a shared commitment to working with the United States.
The second panel featured: Daniel Lawton, deputy director, Office of Southern European Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Ambassador Patrick Theros, principal, Theros & Theros LLP; and John Sitilides, principal, Trilogy Advisors LLC. AHI President Nick Larigakis moderated the panel.
Speaking on the topic, “U.S. Support for Cyprus Talks,” Deputy Director Lawton expressed his sincere hope for a Cyprus solution based on a bizonal, bicommunalfederation. He identified three dynamics that are now prevalent in the current environment. The first is that new factors exist that support a Cyprus settlement. He cited the Joint Statement agreed to between communities in February 2014, the cross visits to Athens and Ankara of Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot representatives, respectively; the appointment of the UN special advisor, the continued incident-free crossings, and meetings between religious and business leaders.
The breadth and depth of the United States’ effort and the importance of keeping up momentum are the second and third dynamics identified by Lawton. He believes there is reason to be cautiously optimistic. He added the United States strongly supports the ongoing efforts to find a settlement and the United States’ engagement is grounded in diplomacy. Lawton also assured the audience the United States recognizes Cyprus’ right to explore its resources within its EEZ.
Ambassador Theros expressed pessimism negotiations will work during his topic, “Renewed U.S. Interest and Elements of a Settlement.” He believes the Cypriot government is in a bind and has little room to negotiate. Ambassador Theros also believes Erdogan is walking back on the Cyprus issue and is more focused on domestic issues.
Sitilides concluded the second panel with thoughts on the topic, “The American Hellenic Community: Influence and Tactics.” Sitilides offered his advice on what the Greek American community can do for Cyprus given Washington’s current view of Cyprus. He recommended the Cyprus issue be framed as an issue of justice in concert with Cyprus’ geopolitical importance that is currently emerging. The latter, of course, emanating from the new geopolitical realities of Cyprus’ energy finds and its relations with Israel. For example, community leaders or Cyprus advocates should make a connection with policymakers based on the values of U.S. foreign policy. In addition, Egypt should be integrated into the discussion when discussing Cyprus’ geostrategic importance and the latter’s potential ability to contribute to provide greater energy stability in the EU, Sitilides offered.
A vibrant Q&A session followed each of the two panels as well as the opening remarks by Ambassadors Chacalli and Panagopoulos and historical background provided by Rossides.
WATCH AHI’s Cyprus Conference in full
The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American think-tank and public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.
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AHI Policy Conference Explores Cyprus Issue after 40 Years