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Hydrocarbons should serve as an incentive for solution, says nominee US ambassador

October 4, 2018 at 10:07pm
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Hydrocarbons have the potential, if managed correctly, to be a catalyst for increased cooperation, for enhanced regional stability and prosperity, and should serve as an incentive to a Cyprus settlement, said Judith Gail Garber, nominee to be US Ambassador in Nicosia.

Garber, who on Thursday addressed the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, pledged, if her nomination is confirmed, to work  to advance in Cyprus the fundamental US interest in a Europe whole, free, prosperous, and at peace.

“This is an important time for Cyprus, a country situated at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. It is at this place that U.S. national interests in anchoring the Euro-Atlantic Alliance, securing the Eastern frontier, and stabilizing the South intersect.
Our commitment to encouraging the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to forge a just and lasting settlement remains as resolute as ever,” she said.

She pledged to do all that  she could, to support efforts by the leaders, by ordinary Cypriots, by the guarantor powers, and by the United Nations to reach the promise of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, pointing out that a reunified Cyprus would provide a more prosperous future for all Cypriots.

“Such an example would resonate well beyond the island, strengthening relations in all corners of the Eastern Mediterranean and throughout the world. It would also serve as an inspiration for others who wish to define a new future after a painful past,” she said.

Garber continued saying that the Republic of Cyprus is a valued friend and important strategic partner with whom the US cooperate on a range of priorities, including counter-terrorism, maritime security, and law enforcement.

She added that Cyprus’ participation in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, as well as its regional efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, demonstrate its commitment to international security.

“We are working to systematically strengthen our relations with the Republic of Cyprus, including in the areas of security cooperation and counter-terrorism. If confirmed, I will continue this effort.”

Referring to the discovery of natural gas resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, including in Cyprus’ offshore waters, she noted that this discovery has expanded possibilities for increasing regional energy security through diversification of resources, routes, and suppliers.

“We have emphasized our support of the Republic of Cyprus’ right to develop hydrocarbon resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone. We also believe the resources should be shared equitably between both communities within the context of an overall settlement. Hydrocarbons have the potential, if managed correctly, to be a catalyst for increased cooperation, for enhanced regional stability and prosperity, and should serve as an incentive to a Cyprus settlement. If confirmed, I would seek to build upon this potential,” Garber pointed out.

In her testimony, Garber said that Cyprus’ economy has proven to be resilient, with the help of an IMF program from 2013-2016, but added that additional reforms will be necessary to sustain future growth. According to Garber, Cyprus needs to modernize its foreclosure and bankruptcy laws, and accelerate efforts to reduce the high level of non-performing debt.

“It also needs to take more steps to combat the numerous challenges and risks posed by illicit Russian money in the economy. To sustain economic growth, Cyprus needs to control public sector spending, take steps to diversify the economy, and implement legal reforms to preserve confidence in the banking sector. We also pay close attention to the integrity of the Cypriot financial sector. We are encouraged by the progress local banks have made to boost regulations by culling suspicious accounts and hiring additional personnel to conduct due diligence. If confirmed, I will encourage the Republic of Cyprus to continue to strengthen its banking regulations and implement measures to limit the ease of shell company formation,” she said.

Garber added that progress on a settlement could have a positive impact on the entire island’s economy and would create opportunities for greater trade and investment, bringing tangible benefits to all Cypriots.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.  Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

(Cyprus News Agency)