The White House
Office of the Vice President
Remarks to the Press by Vice President Joe Biden in Nicosia, Republic of Cyrus
Ledra Palace Hotel
Nicosia, Republic of Cyprus
10:23 P.M. (Local)
THE VICE PRESIDENT [flanked by President Anastasiades, Dr. Eroğlu, and UN special representative Buttenheim]: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank my host and -- for the incredible hospitality that's been shown to me in my private meetings with the leaders, as well as our joint meeting. And I want to thank them for joining me tonight. We had a very productive discussion building on the meetings I had with each leader separately earlier in the day.
The fact that we break bread tonight in the heart of a beautiful, ancient city -- but also in a buffer zone that separates one Cypriot community from another reminds us that things were not always as they are now. They do not have to remain the way they are now. A better path is open.
And I’m pleased that the two leaders have reaffirmed their full commitment to their joint declaration of February the 11th. The two leaders agreed to speed up the process of negotiations toward a comprehensive settlement which is their priority. They agreed to meet at least twice a month to this end. Their next meeting will be on June the 2nd.
The two leaders also agreed to intensify work on preparing meaningful confidence-building measures as envisioned in the joint declaration. The two leaders also agreed to revitalize the bi-communal technical committees to improve the daily lives of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The two leaders also agreed to jointly call upon all those who have any information on missing persons to share that information with the Committee on Missing Persons in order to assist the committee in advancing its work. They agreed that additional resources should be provided for the work of the committee.
For our part, the United States will engage with all stakeholders to explore mutually beneficial initiatives to reinforce settlement negotiations. And let me thank my colleagues again, and I look forward to seeing them again.
[President Anastasiades, Dr. Eroğlu , and UN special representative Buttenheim depart]
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let me add that I have been engaged in negotiations around the world in many difficult conflicts. But I must tell you, I have been truly impressed by the cordiality and the ease with which both leaders speak to one another and negotiate with one another.
Tonight, I heard both leaders confirm a common objective -- the reunification of Cyprus as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. I heard common ground on certain aspects of these negotiations. I also heard differences. But I do not believe they are irreconcilable differences.
There is clearly a lot of work to be done, but what I’m hearing gives me hope that a solution is within reach this time. The United States encourages the leaders to discuss a package on Varosha and Famagusta. If the two sides were to agree on this, the United States would stand ready to assist on the implementation.
The United States is also hoping to see quick and substantial progress on a number of core issues which would allow the sides to enter the final phase of U.N.-led negotiations. But ultimately, the solution cannot come from the outside. It cannot come from the United States or anywhere else; it has to come from the leaders of the two communities, and from the compelling voices of the civil society leaders I heard from earlier today.
People have asked me, what’s in this for the United States? I tell you, President Obama and I believe that Cyprus is a key partner in a challenging region. And we know it can be even a stronger partner if the next generation of Cypriots can grow up without the burden of conflict. That would expand people’s horizons to dream of something much bigger. It would unlock their talents and liberate them to do remarkable things.
Cyprus can be a growing force for peace, prosperity and stability in the eastern Mediterranean, and that would benefit the world. That would benefit us all. There will always be doubters, but I heard tonight from two leaders committed to proving them wrong. The great Irish poet who recently passed away, Seamus Heaney, once wrote in a poem ironically called “The Cure at Troy” -- he had a stanza in that poem that reads as follows: “History teaches us,” he said, “not to hope on this side of the grave. But once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice rises up, and hope and history rhyme.”
For the sake of the boys and girls born on this island who deserve the possibility that only peace can bring, let’s finally make hope and history rhyme together.
May God bless Cyprus. May God bless America and may there be a speedy resolution. Thank you all for staying so late this evening for my statement. Good night.
10:30 P.M. (Local)