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Biden’s Cyprus stop will honor slain ambassador

Killing in 1974 has parallels to Benghazi

- The Washington Times - Monday, May 19, 2014

Vice President Joseph R. Biden will travel to a Mediterranean country this week to pay his respects to a U.S. ambassador killed during an attack on the American diplomatic facility.

No, Mr. Biden won't be honoring Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed with three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012. Instead the vice president will attend a brief ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the slaying of Ambassador Rodger Davies in Cyprus.

Mr. Davies was shot to death at the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia in 1974 by Greek Cypriot gunmen who were protesting Washington's failure to stop Turkish troops from taking control of part of the island. The ambassador was seeking shelter in a hallway when a bullet struck him in the chest. An embassy secretary, Antoinette Varnavas, also was killed.

An aide to Mr. Biden briefing reporters Monday didn't say whether the vice president plans to draw any comparisons with the death of Mr. Stevens, who was killed during a terrorist attack that the administration initially blamed on a protest over an anti-Islamic video. A special House committee has been appointed to investigate the slayings in Libya.

Time magazine said the Cyprus incident was "eerily similar" to the Benghazi attack, with initial media reports claiming that gunmen stormed the embassy in Nicosia under cover of demonstrators screaming "Kissinger! Kissinger!" (Henry Kissinger was U.S. Secretary of State at the time).

But the culprits were brought to justice in the 1974 killings, while no perpetrators have been located in the Benghazi attack. The Cypus government charged six people. Two men charged with manslaughter received lengthy prison sentences, although the sentences were later reduced and they were freed after 18 months.

The anniversary of the Cyprus attack is actually Aug. 19, but a senior administration official said Mr. Biden will lay a wreath at the embassy on Thursday after meeting with civil and religious leaders on the still-divided island nation in the eastern Mediterranean. 

In August, embassy staff in Nicosia will hold another ceremony in which the ambassador's residence will be renamed the Davies House, and a lounge in the embassy will be named after Ms. Varnavas.

Mr. Biden's trip will start on Wednesday with a visit to Romania, where he will meet with the country's leaders to reassure them of the U.S. commitment to protect its NATO allies in light of Russia's "destabilizing" actions in Ukraine, a senior administration official said.

The vice president's wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will accompany him on the trip.

 

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