American Ambassador hails progress in US-Cyprus ties

US Ambassador to Cyprus, Julie Fisher referred to the important progress in the bilateral relationship between Cyprus and USA in the recent years, speaking during a Round Table discussion with foreign Ambassadors in the context of the 21st World Conference of Cyprus Diaspora.

The Ambassador praised the efforts of the Cyprus Diaspora towards that direction and went on with a comparison of the situation in 2018 with the situation as it exists today.

Fisher pointed out that in 2018, a state partnership program did not exist, whereas, by 2023, both countries had launched the New Jersey state partnership program between the national guards of New Jersey and Cyprus. She highlighted the current collaboration, with twelve National Guard trainers from New Jersey providing training for local police and National Guard officers.

The Ambassador also highlighted joint preparations for the evacuation of American citizens from the region, lauding Cyprus as a credible partner for such endeavours. She pointed out advancements in military education, noting that 26 personnel from Cyprus completed training in 2023, and 37 more were to finish by year-end. Additionally, 40 graduates from the George C. Marshall Center were expected by the end of the year.

Fisher mentioned the CYCLOPS training centre, which officially opened in Cyprus in April 2022, and has trained over 1500 participants from 25 countries in the region. As she said this center demonstrates US efforts to combat transnational threats.

Regarding sanctions and illicit finance, the Ambassador said that there was an incredible growth in the law enforcement cooperation between the US and the Republic of Cyprus in ways that are incredibly meaningful to the efforts to support Ukraine and to counter Russia.

She also referred to the opening of direct commercial sales of military goods between Cyprus and the US.

Fisher provided economic statistics, stating that US exports to Cyprus increased from $420 million in 2017 to $1.2 billion in 2022. Similarly, Cypriot exports to the US rose from $621 million in 2017 to $2.16 billion today. US direct investments in Cyprus surged from $4.3 billion in 2017 to $10.4 billion in 2022.

She furthermore referred to cultural heritage agreements that bring back works of art and antiquities the work on visa waiver programmes and the work to solve security challenges between the two countries.

Replying to a question on money laundering from Russians in the Turkish-occupied areas and the fact that there are no sanctions for Turkey, the Ambassador praised the orientation of President Christodoulides and his team in support of Ukraine and countering Russia, saying that it’s very important part of the partnership between US and Cyprus. She added that they were bringing together people from the Ministries of Finance and Central Banks to think about what else they could do together to cut off the fuel that is allowing this war to continue. She added that Cyprus was playing “an incredibly important role” in this.

“The question of Russians buying properties in the north is one of great interest to us and is a part of the conversation we have between our governments,” she said.

“We are taking a whole island approach to this question and thinking about how it is. We are tracking the money, following the money and working to counter the illicit finance to counter sanctions evasion”, she said.

Replying to another question the US Ambassador reiterated they will continue to look for ways to build confidence on people-to-people levels while they will endeavor to support on a diplomatic level and in New York the efforts to resume talks in Cyprus and to move forward.

Replying to a question about the different standards of the international community in Ukraine and in Cyprus, Fisher said that there are parallels in the two situations but also things that are not parallels.

In Cyprus, she said there are decades of engagement and support from the Security Council to the parties, in trying to reach an agreement and that, as she said, is what the US was committed to.

Regarding Turkey, she said that it’s important, and in their interest to have Turkey firmly planted in the West and not to allow something different.

She added that the challenge is how to work to ensure that Turkey can be a strong member of the alliances and make a contribution to solving the challenges to European security.

“This isn’t easy, this is a challenge of many years, but my government is certainly committed to this and this effort continues”, she said.

(Cyprus News Agency)