Biden to visit Romania, Cyprus on Ukraine mission
US Vice President Joe Biden will visit Romania and Cyprus this month, seeking to underscore Washington's commitment to eastern Europe and deepen Russia's isolation over the Ukraine crisis.
"The vice president will discuss with the leadership of both countries the international community's response to Russia's illegal military intervention and destabilizing actions in Ukraine," the White House said in a statement.
Biden will also use the May 20-23 trip to deepen economic ties and advance talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal with Europe. He will also discuss efforts to strengthen Europe's energy security in the face of worsening ties with Moscow, the White House said.
Romania, a former Warsaw Pact state which shares a border with Ukraine, is now a member of both the European Union and NATO and has urged the Western alliance to boost its force posture in Eastern Europe amid nervousness over Russia's regional intentions.
Biden will meet Romanian President Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta and address civil society groups and US and Romanian troops.
"The vice president will underscore the United States' ironclad commitment to the collective defense of NATO under Article 5, and express appreciation for Romania's contributions to regional and global security," the White House statement said.
During his visit to Cyprus, Biden will also stress the need to respond to what Washington sees as Russia's destabilizing actions in Ukraine.
Cyprus is seen in the White House as one of the European governments most resistant to toughening sanctions against Russia, including "sectoral" measures directly targeting Moscow's economy.
Nicosia's Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said in an interview with a German newspaper last month that tougher EU sanctions against Russia could "destroy" the economy in Cyprus.
Russians have billions of dollars in euros deposited in banks in Cyprus, and the government's resistance to further sanctions threatens a joint US-European Union effort to preserve a united front in punishing Russia.
Biden will meet President Nicos Anastasiades after he arrives on the divided island and also will see officials from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, civil society representatives and religious leaders.
"The vice president will emphasize the United States' strong support for a comprehensive settlement to reunify the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality," the White House said.
Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders have vowed to seek an end to the island's four-decade division "as soon as possible," relaunching the peace talks on February 11 after a nearly two-year hiatus.
US intervention is seen as a major driver of the revived talks.
© 2014 AFP