By Justin Sink - 05/12/14 11:45 AM EDT
Vice President Biden will head to Romania and Cyprus next week in the latest bid by the vice president to quell regional tensions as conditions continue to deteriorate in Ukraine.
Romania, a former Soviet republic that joined the European Union in 2007, shares a border with Ukraine and has vocally denounced the Russian incursion into Crimea.
The country is particularly concerned for the fate of Moldova, a Romanian-speaking country with a sizable Russian minority that borders the southern regions of Ukraine where separatists have taken hold. On Monday, separatists in southern Ukraine declared two provinces to be independent of Kiev, after autonomy votes held Sunday that were denounced by the Ukrainian and U.S. government.
Romanian President Traian Basescu has called on NATO to reposition its resources in response to developments in Ukraine and said he has already met with CIA Deputy Director Avril Haines, according to Reuters.
While in Romania, Biden will meet with American and Romanian troops conducting joint military exercises in a move intended to build confidence among skittish allies in Eastern Europe.
"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 said in a statement.
In Bucharest, Biden will also deliver remarks to Romanian civil society and youth leaders.
In Cyprus, the vice president will focus primarily on helping advance a U.N.-sponsored peace process. The island has been divided since Turkey invaded in 1974, although peace talks between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots resumed after a two-year hiatus in February.
"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. "The Vice President will urge all parties on the island to intensify their work on behalf of peace and security in the region, and stress the important role that all citizens can play in promoting mutual understanding between the two communities."
According to the Cyprus News Agency, Biden will push for U.N.-backed experts and observers to be allowed to enter disputed territories, including the former resort city of Varosha, which has become a ghost town. He'll also advocate a mine-clearing initiative by both sides of the conflict.
Biden's trip is the latest attempt by the White House to sooth tensions in Europe after the Russian incursion into Ukraine. Biden visited Ukraine in late April in a signal of support for the government in Kiev, and President Obama is slated to visit nearby Poland in June.