Cyprus Mail
27 Aug 08

WHILE all Greek Cypriot commentators welcomed the news that Senator Joe
Biden would stand as Barack Obama's vice-presidential running mate,
all were quick to temper their joy with a note of caution. They had
been disappointed in the past, after pinning big hopes on presidential
candidates who had spoken out in favour of Greek Cypriot positions,
and had no intention of making the same mistake again. It was very
much a case on the proverbial once bitten, twice shy.

Commentators all recalled how Greek Cypriots celebrated Jimmy Carter's
victory in 1976, given his pre-election declarations on Cyprus. They
all pointed out that Carter failed to deliver on his promises, which
was not strictly true. In 1978 a framework for a settlement had been
presented to the two sides - with much more favourable terms for the
Greek Cypriot side than are on offer now - but the then president
Kyprianou, with the encouragement of AKEL, rejected it.

Senator Biden had consistently taken a stand against the Turkish
occupation of Cyprus and had repeatedly called on Ankara, in his
capacity as head of Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, to improve
its human rights record. Back in 1999 he had reportedly threatened
to block a $5 billion US aid package to Turkey in an attempt to make
the Ecevit government work towards a Cyprus settlement. A frequent
guest at the conferences of the Greek and Cypriot lobbies in the US,
Biden had also fallen out with Ankara over its treatment of the Kurds
and the Armenian issue.

It is an impeccable record, as far as the Greek side is concerned
but the Turks, predictably, do not share this view. Their media has
already carried articles expressing disappointment at his selection
and listing examples of his anti-Turkey positions. Of course Biden
would only be vice-president and that is assuming Obama would win
the November elections. And the truth is that the new administration
would have much more important and pressing problems to deal with
than the Cyprus issue, which would be handled, as always, by State
Department officials.

US policy on Cyprus will remain the same whoever wins the
November elections and nothing spectacular should be expected. The
administration would offer support to UN-brokered direct talks, which
should be in progress by then, and encourage the Turkish government
to adopt a constructive stance. If the two sides reach an agreement,
the US would give its full blessing to it, but if they do not, the
administration, with or without Biden as vice-president, is unlikely
to be overly concerned, so long as its ties with Turkey remain intact.

For the US the Cyprus problem is an issue of low importance and as
such is unlikely to ever command the attention of the president or
the vice-p resident. So we should not expect a change of US policy
even if the Obama-Biden ticket is successful.