(As prepared for delivery)
Good morning and welcome. I’m glad there is a good turnout of journalists.
Before I turn to the visit of the State Department’s Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell and to policy issues, I would like to tell you about a series of fun events that highlight two things I care about – music and young people.
Next week, the U.S. Embassy in Cyprus will host a group of undergraduate musicians from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Georgia Tech, as it is known, is one of America’s top research universities. The Chamber Choir is made up entirely of university students, who are studying science, engineering and related fields – and have a passion for music. They sing American, gospel and classical music.
The students will spend a week in Cyprus. They will perform in various locales, visit schools and universities to teach and meet other young people, and will appear on local media. They will also perform a new piece by Greek Cypriot composer, Evis Sammoutis, who teaches in the United States at Ithaca College. The choir will hold two free public concerts in Nicosia on Thursday and Friday evenings. We hope the students’ presence leads to further cooperation between American and Cypriot institutions, and helps show off some of the unique aspects of U.S. higher education. If you would like more information, please check our website or Facebook page.
Now turning to the visit of Wess Mitchell…
Mitchell, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, will visit Cyprus on Friday. His trip is part of a broader visit to the region, which includes stops in Pristina, Skopje, Belgrade, and Athens, as well as Nicosia. As the diplomat primarily responsible for implementing U.S. policy in Europe, he will discuss a wide variety of bilateral and regional topics. In Cyprus, he will discuss regional security issues, management of Eastern Mediterranean energy resources, bilateral relations, and the Cyprus Problem. It will be his first trip to Cyprus.
I know that many of you are especially interested in the hydrocarbons issue, so let me say a couple of words about that. The United States has consistently reiterated its support for the Republic of Cyprus’ right to develop its resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone. At the same time, we have noted that we believe the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement. It is clear that a just and lasting settlement of the longstanding Cyprus Problem would greatly facilitate the development of the resources and would help ensure they benefit all Cypriots.
In my long career as a diplomat—with a particular focus on economic issues—I have become familiar with the energy business and I know that it works according to long-term timelines and is influenced by many factors. Exploratory activities do not necessarily mean there is a find. Even if there is a deposit, it may not be possible or feasible to commercialize it. Even if the oil or gas can be extracted, prices—including the cost of transporting the product—may dictate waiting before entering the market. It often takes several years, even decades, before all the conditions are right for revenues to begin flowing. Political stability, economic growth, and regional security all play large roles in the sequencing of events.
I don’t want to sound pessimistic (because I am not) but I do want to inject some realism and experience into the topic. The discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean are important. They can interconnect and integrate the region. They can reduce the dependence of individual countries on specific sources of energy and lead to increased economic and political cooperation. The resulting prosperity can strengthen democracies and bring much needed political and economic stability to the Eastern Mediterranean. They will also help diversify Europe’s energy supply and help meet the continent’s broader energy security needs. But it will take time for these benefits to accrue—if the finds are there and the conditions are right.
I sincerely hope that both sides use that time to find a way to resume negotiations to reunify the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation. We believe that a great deal of progress was made by the leaders during the last round of negotiations and we continue to support Cypriot-led efforts, facilitated by the United Nations and supported by the international community, to bring about a settlement.
Now I will take a few questions. Please give your name and identify your outlet.