US Vice President Biden’s October 2, 2014 Harvard Kennedy School comments on Syria garnered most of the media attention, but he also made an important statement saying there is a “new opportunity” for a “win-win” breakthrough involving Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel, and the construction of a gas “pipeline” from the Levant Basin gas fields to Greece and Europe.
Biden was answering a question posed by a Cyprus-born Harvard student concerning America’s evaluation of Turkey’s role in developing a de facto “non-zero-sum-game” alliance between Egypt, Israel, Cyprus and Greece concerning the “eastern Mediterranean energy map.”
Biden first stated that with respect to the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus, “the world is changing.” He related that he has been “deeply involved,” and “passionately engaged” in the Cyprus issue since the mid-1970s, and that his friends, quite seriously, call him, “Joe Bidenapolis” because of his attachment to the Greek community in his home state of Delaware.
More specifically, having just returned from a state visit to Cyprus, and having had meetings with President Nicos Anastasiades of Greek Cyprus, and also with President Dervis Eroglu (head of the northern part of Cyprus that Turkey now controls with Anastasiades’ blessing), Biden explained that three fundamental changes have occurred:
First – “Turkey fully understands that it is no longer in its interests, they have no interest to have troops remaining on Cyprus. None, whatsoever.” Turkey had invaded the northern part of Cyprus in 1974 in response to what Turkey believed was a Greek-engineered coup which harmed Turkey’s interests in Cyprus.
Second – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “has made the break with the only constituency to whom ‘occupation’ mattered, and that was the military.”
Third – Biden said of Erdogan: “I recently met with him and he has committed to seeing me in Ankara to see if we can do two things, one, reach a solution which he says he will agree to a ‘bi-zonal, bi-communal’ island and and [two], he is beginning to realize, in my view, and I will not speak for him, that there is an overwhelming self-interest for Turkey in taking advantage of the significant resources, particularly gas, that are in the eastern Mediterranean that could play a significant role in liberating not only Turkey, but, Greece... a pipeline... from […] Russia’s use of energy as a weapon.”
Having just met with the Greek Cypriots, the Israelis, and Turkey, Biden said that “what is starting to happen” is that “there is a new possibility,” and where “new opportunities present themselves where they can benefit,” adding “things change.” Biden noted “the irony” that the Levant Basin Gas finds may be the “lubricant to bring an end” to a very difficult circumstance that exists on Cyprus today.
Biden counseled, “not to dwell on the past” but to “look at the opportunities presented” in the future, and “see if there is a ‘win-win’ situation for everybody.”
Biden closed by saying he was hopeful and that, in Cyprus, he is reminded of George Mitchell’s comment about the Northern Ireland-Great Britain peace accords that there were “700 days of failure, and one day of success.” Biden said that he personally believes that in Cyprus, ”we’ll find the one day of success.”
Gil Ronen contributed to this report