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Kerry seeks to thaw 'frozen' Cyprus stalemate

AFP, Friday 10 May 2013
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US Secretary of State John Kerry called Friday for greater efforts to "unfreeze" decades of tense stalemate between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus, after meeting here with the foreign minister of the divided Mediterranean island.

"The United States supports a bi-zonal, bicommunal federation. We would like to see us unfreeze this conflict and be able to move to a resolution," Kerry told reporters after meeting here with his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides.

"We also look forward to working with the foreign minister, and with President (Nicos) Anastasiades and others to try to move Cyprus forward on one of the world's frozen conflicts," the top US diplomat said.

Kerry said he already has broached the subject of talks to break the stalemate "several times" with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Greece's Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, as well as with the Cypriot president.

Kasoulides said that talks on the future of the divided island should be raised "not in isolation but... in the wider picture of the eastern Mediterranean.

"We want to be and play the role of stability in this region and work with all the neighbors and with the United States," he said.

The four-decade-long stalemate over Cyprus's unresolved status "is an open wound, and it's bleeding to have to have one's country divided," Kasoulides added.

The proposed efforts to achieve a breakthrough on political stalemate in Cyprus comes with the island's economy suffering following the collapse of the Greek economy.

The European Commission and the European Central Bank warned in a report Friday that a contraction in Cyprus' economy could result in the nation's troubled banks requiring additional financial help, and warned of several tough economic years ahead.

Meanwhile, Eurozone finance ministers were meeting in Dublin Friday to consider a $13 billion (10-billion euro) bailout deal Cyprus agreed last month with international lenders. The bailout is meant to rescue Cypriot banks, which have taken enormous losses on bad Greek debt investments.

Kerry said Friday that Washington hoped to be "helpful" as the island recovers from its economic problems.

"I know that Cyprus, as everybody does, has been struggling with very, very deep economic challenges," he said.

"We are very understanding of the difficult choices that you've had to make and the challenges that you face," Kerry added. "We certainly want to be helpful in ways that we can be."

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