As an ancient crossroads on the trading routes from the East to the West, Cyprus has been occupied or controlled by the Myceneans, Greeks, Byzantines, British, French, Italians and Turks dating back to 3700 BC. Cyprus gained its independence in 1960, but divisions between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots has resulted in incidents of violence for the past 30 years or so. Currently, United Nations peacekeepers have established a buffer zone between the Greek and Turkish sectors. The Turkish have declared their sector a separate country, but only Turkey recognizes it. Cyprus entered the European Union in 2004, and this, as well as new oil and gas exploration plans, has provided even more impetus for foreign allies, such as the US, to pressure the Greek and Turkish elements to negotiate a peaceful solution to their issues.
Lay of the Land: Located 40 miles south of Turkey and 60 miles west of Syria in the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus has been occupied by successive waves of conquerors from earliest times.
In August 1974, the US ambassador to Cyprus, Rodger Davies, was shot to death by Greek Cypriot demonstrators during an attack on the US emabassy.
Currently, relations between the US are “cooperative but strained.” The official US position is that the current political climate on Cyprus is unacceptable. Several presidential administrations have tried to work with the UN to affect a fair compromise to the problems existing between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
US imports from Cyprus endured several notable changes in the years from 2006 to 2007. Imports on the rise included dairy products and eggs, which increased from $2.2 million to $2.3 million, “other” (soft beverages, processed coffee, etc.), which increased from $285,000 to $973,000 (which represented an increase from just $67,o00 in 2003), “fruits and preparations, including frozen juices” increased from $18,000 to $27,000 and bakery and confectionary products increased from just $7,000 to $221,000.
Oil Search Rouses Concern Among Turks…and Profit Seekers
According to the State Department, the Cypriot government has respected the rights of its citizens for the most part. There were problems in some areas, including reports of: police abuse and degrading treatment of persons in police custody and of asylum seekers; violence against women, including spousal abuse; and incidents of violence against children. There were some incidents of discrimination against members of minority ethnic and national groups. Trafficking of women to the island, particularly for sexual exploitation, continued to be a problem.
Note: The Embassy in Nicosia was established on Aug 16, 1960, with L. Douglas Heck as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.
Pavlos Anastasiades became Cyprus’s Ambassador to the United States on September 16, 2010.
President Obama has nominated a career diplomat with extensive prior experience in the Aegean Sea region to be the next U.S. ambassador to the ethnically divided island nation of Cyprus. John M. Koenig has served previously in Cyprus, and while his knowledge of Greek will likely endear him to the 77% of Cypriots who speak that language, it may impede relations with the Turkish Cypriot minority, which in 1983 declared an independent Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey.
Born in 1958 in Tacoma, Washington, John Koenig grew up in the Puget Sound area. He earned a B.A. in Anthropology at the University of Washington circa 1980 and an M.A. in Foreign Relations at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
Koenig joined the Foreign Service in 1984. Early career assignments included service as vice consul at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, from 1984 to 1985; as political officer at the embassy in East Berlin, which was the capital of the former East Germany, from 1985 to 1987; and as political officer at the embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 1990 to 1993.
Koenig served his first tour in Cyprus as political counselor at the embassy in Nicosia from 1994 to 1997, followed by two postings to Greece, first as political-military officer/deputy political counselor at the embassy in Athens from 1997 to 2000, and then as principal officer at the American Consulate in Thessaloniki from 2000 to 2003, where he organized the largest ever U.S. public affairs event held in Greece to that time, “Honored Nation – USA,” at the Thessaloniki International Fair.
Relocating from Southeastern Europe to Northwestern Europe, Koenig served as deputy permanent representative and deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Mission to NATO in Brussels, Belgium, from 2003 to 2006. As acting permanent representative for five months in 2005, he helped launch NATO’s support for the African Union Mission in Sudan.
Koenig served as chargé d’affaires ad interim and deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany, from 2006 to 2009, when, according to cables released by Wikileaks, he successfully threatened the German government into not prosecuting 13 American agents who had kidnapped a German car salesman, Khaled el-Masri, and sent him to Afghanistan to be tortured and interrogated. As it turned out, it was a case of mistaken identity.
Most recently, Koenig has served as political advisor to the commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, from August 2009 to May 2012. He has also served at the State Department in Washington, as staff assistant in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and as watch officer in the Operations Center.
Koenig speaks German, Greek, and Indonesian. He is married to Natalie Koenig, who is from Bellingham, Washington. They have two sons, Ted (born 1990) and Alex (born 1992).
Cables Show Germany Caved to Pressure from Washington (by Matthias Gebauer and John Goetz, Der Spiegel)
I am not a State Secret (by Khaled El-Masri, Los Angeles Times)
The El-Masri Cable (by Scott Horton, Harper’s Magazine)