VOLUME 17 ISSUE 6 December 2020

Ioannis Kasoulides
Ex-Former Minister of the Republic of Cyprus


I will take a different approach in this presentation from the traditional one that I have described in my book or other presentations with a similar subject. The Foreign Minister of Cyprus, Nicos Christodoulides, I presume as he has been asked to write his own presentation on the same subject will deal comprehensively in a more authoritative way.

I will limit myself to try to foresee how the Biden Administration might affect our own Foreign Policy, in the region and on Tukey. I am certain that the two main pillars of the Foreign Policy, i.e. the peripheral foreign policy on the one hand and the enhanced relations with five permanent Members of the Security Council will be further pursued, and our consistent alignment with the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU remains our goal.

The Trump Administration has whole heartedly supported Israel, moved the Embassy to Jerusalem and recognised it as its capital, has encouraged UAE, Bahrain and probably Soudan to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, and produced a plan for the solution of the Palestinian question that is totally rejected by the Arab side. The new administration cannot go back to the issue of Jerusalem, probably the encouragement of more Arab countries to recognise Israel will not be pursued with the same enthusiasm and the Middle Peace plan will quietly be set aside.

The policy towards Iran will not be the same. The five +two nuclear agreement signed by President Obama will be reopened. Not exactly by directly re-entering into the agreement but by renegotiating with much more good faith and Iran will be asked to reciprocate. As a carrot the lifting of sanctions an understanding may be pursued towards the threat that Iran poses towards moderate states, the American allies, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and others. The tension that exists between Iran and these States may be eased and the existing polarisation in the region may be moderated.

This polarisation has produced a realignment in our region bringing closer together the Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan along with Israel. The common threat of these countries is Iran. Moderate Sunni Arab states found the two EU states in the region, Cyprus and Greece as most willing to come together and a lot of talks are taking place and probably a preparatory work for the formation of a multilateral forum in the Easter Mediterranean and the Arab Peninsular. This would be a major step forward for the Foreign Policy of Cyprus. The change of the hard line policy of the USA towards Iran may render as not so relevant this realignment. It could be so, but it can also be one reason more that these states should align themselves further.

Turkey pursues a policy of the Political Islam in our region supporting together with Qatar all the Movements of the Muslim Brotherhood that is undermining the stability of the Monarchies, that it also includes Egypt and Israel with the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Erdogan. This is considered by the moderate Arab states as a second in significance threat after Iran.

What could be the policy of the Biden administration towards Turkey? Certainly the personal backing of Mr Trump towards Erdogan will not be there anymore. There was definitively a shift in the policy of the State Department and the Pentagon over Turkey and over Cyprus and Greece respectively. The previous policy in its dealings with Greece and Cyprus beyond a line that would upset Turkey has changed. Secretary Pompeo is visiting all the allies in the region except Turkey. He visited Patriarch Bartolomeo in Istanbul without any contact with the Turkish Authorities. Turkey is not considered anymore as a faithful ally.

President-elect Biden is more close to a traditional Foreign policy. Will he follow the tradition of considering Turkey as too big and too geopolitically important to be pushed to the fold of Russia?  A lot will depend on the briefings from the State Department and the Pentagon. The autonomous foreign policy of Erdogan playing with both superpowers is not likely to change. He is beyond repair. If the new Administration agrees it will become even stricter. But we should not be surprised if they try to woo Turkey back into the fold.

I believe that the opinion of the American allies in the region will be taken into account. This will be a cashing in in our regional Foreign Policy in the last seven years.

Biden is a friend of Cyprus, knowing his previous history. He knows the Cyprus problem personally. His stance will depend first on the line to take towards Turkey. Come what may he will certainly lend a hand directly or indirectly if credible efforts are under way for a solution. If the worst comes to the worst the Oval Office will never permit an aggressive military operation against Cyprus.