Cyprus’ Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Leonidas Pantelides?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016
Leonidas Pantelides

Leonidas Pantelides, a longtime member of Cyprus’ Foreign Service, presented his credentials as his country’s ambassador to the United States on June 27, 2016.


Pantelides was born in Nicosia, Cyprus, on January 11, 1953. His first vocation was that of a philosopher; he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Kent in 1983, hoping to return to Cyprus to teach. However, the country had no university at the time and at the urging of a cousin, Pantelides applied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When he accepted a position, he thought it would be temporary.


Instead, Pantelides has made a career in diplomacy. He served as first secretary in Washington from 1989 to 1993. Then, he was made part of a team involved with UN-sponsored inter-communal negotiations aimed at solving the division of Cyprus between Greek-aligned and Turkish-aligned territories. In 1996, Pantelides was made director of the Office of the Permanent Secretary and the following year was director of the Office of the Foreign Minister.


Pantelides’ first ambassadorship came in 1998, when he was sent to Sweden to represent his country there, as well as Iceland, Norway, Latvia and Denmark. In 2001, he was made ambassador to Greece, and was also credentialed to Albania, Bulgaria and Romania. Pantelides was moved to Moscow in 2004, with responsibility for Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus.


He returned to Cyprus in 2008 to serve as the head of the diplomatic office for President Demetris Christofias. He was caught up in some controversy when, after Cypriot forces in 2009 confiscated munitions from a ship bound for Syria, the contraband exploded in a naval yard in 2011, killing 13. Christofias and Pantelides were among those found to be at least partly responsible for the failure to secure the munitions.


In 2011, Pantelides was made permanent representative to the UN in Geneva. He came home two years later to serve as first deputy permanent secretary/director for the Middle East and North Africa in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a post he held until going to Washington.


Pantelides has written a book, Eudemos (About Time). He also has been a part-time professor of international affairs at the University of Nicosia. He’s married and has four grown daughters. Pantelides enjoys cooking and woodworking.

-Steve Straehley


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