The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia, Mr Ivan Mrkiæ, who is on an official visit to Cyprus. This is the first visit of Mr Mrkiæ abroad in his capacity as Foreign Minister of this country. Following a private meeting between the two Ministers and extensive consultations between the two delegations, Dr Kozakou-Marcoullis and Mr Mrkiæ held a joint Press conference.
In her initial statement the Cypriot Foreign Minister said the following:
“It is with feelings of deep appreciation and sincere friendship that I welcome to Cyprus the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, my friend Ivan Mrkiæ. His visit is of great significance to us, not only because this is the first visit of the Serbian Foreign Minister to Cyprus, but also due to the Foreign Minister’s close links to Cyprus since he served as Ambassador of his country in Nicosia in the 1990s. As chance would have it, we were colleagues together, young diplomats for our countries at the United Nations, in New York, in the 1980s, and this brings back some very good memories.
During our meeting we reconfirmed the traditionally excellent level of bilateral relations between our two countries, which go back to our strong bonds and collaboration as founding members of the Non Aligned Movement. We also discussed in depth ways to further strengthen and broaden these relations. The then Yugoslavia stood by the side of Cyprus in the difficult years that followed the Turkish invasion of 1974 and today’s Serbia fully supports the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Cyprus. At the same time, Cyprus fully supports Serbia’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and, of course, its future EU membership. I rest assured that our bilateral relations will continue to grow.
During our meeting I had the chance to reiterate to my Serbian colleague the key messages that I have already conveyed to Belgrade during my visit on 11 July 2012 regarding Serbia’s EU perspective. I have in this respect assured the Foreign Minister that during the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the European Union we will exert every effort to promote Serbia’s European perspective.
Until the conclusion of the Cyprus EU Presidency, we hope that the opening of accession negotiations for Serbia will be achievable, a challenging, but yet attainable target, provided of course that tangible compliance and progress is achieved in the criteria set by the Council.
In this respect we recalled that, according to the Council Conclusions of December 2011, this goal can only be fulfilled –and I quote– “once the Commission has assessed that Serbia has achieved the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria, in particular the key priority of taking steps towards a visible and sustainable improvement of relations with Kosovo (…)”. In this framework, I have urged my fellow Minister to continue working swiftly towards that direction. The next Commission’s Progress Report, to be released in October, is of crucial importance towards that end.
As regards Kosovo, the Cyprus national position of non-recognition remains unchanged. Nevertheless, during its EU Presidency, Cyprus will be holding a balanced approach, taking into account the positions of all EU member states, recognizers and non-recognizers. To that effect, we had already issued a statement, just a few days before the assumption of our Presidency.
I also had the opportunity to thoroughly brief the Foreign Minister on the latest developments on the Cyprus problem, as well as Turkey’s provocative behaviour towards the Republic of Cyprus’ Presidency of the Council of the EU. I expressed my satisfaction for Serbia’s support for a comprehensive and viable solution of the Cyprus problem, based on the Resolutions of the UN Security Council. Cyprus strongly appreciates the unwavering support and stance of Serbia in this respect.
I have also informed my Serbian colleague on Turkey’s threatening posture in relation to hydrocarbons in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and persistent threats for creating tension in the region. Turkey’s continued air and naval presence and unauthorized seismic activities in Cyprus’ EEZ further create a climate of insecurity and tension in the sensitive area of the Eastern Mediterranean.
With my Serbian counterpart we also discussed the alarming situation in Syria and its possible ripple effects in the wider region. In this respect, we shared our assessment on the necessity to end violence and we reiterated our deep concern as to the general human rights situation in the country. I have also expressed the Cyprus conviction that military intervention should be avoided by all means and that a political solution should be reached based on the Annan Plan and the Geneva Action Group communiqué. Cyprus fully abides by the conclusions and sanctions adopted by the EU in this respect.
On Egypt, we exchanged views on the current situation. I reiterated that Egypt remains the key player and main strategic partner of the EU in the Middle East, the Middle East peace process and in efforts toward Palestinian reconciliation. I also expressed our full respect for the democratic choices of the Egyptian people and welcomed the formation of the new government. Finally, I informed the Foreign Minister that along with the Foreign Ministers of three other Mediterranean EU member states we intend to pay a joint visit to Cairo for discussions with the new government, on ways to assist Egypt at this critical transitional period of its history.”
Speaking to the Press corps, the Foreign Minister of Serbia expressed his happiness for being in Cyprus again because, as he said, he was privileged to serve his country as Ambassador to Cyprus for many years and he feels “somewhat impregnated in this society and this beautiful island”. He noted that this is his first official visit ever as Foreign Minister of Serbia and recalled that Dr Kozakou-Marcoullis first visited Serbia, once Cyprus took over the Presidency of the Council of the EU.
As the Serbian Foreign Minister stated, their talks were marked as always by friendship and identical views on all major issues of mutual concern. “Cyprus is our friend, proven friend, and we are relying on its judgment and we are very appreciative for its guidance and suggestions, especially regarding the immediate steps, but also the medium term and long term steps towards the EU,” he noted.
Referring to Serbia’s EU accession process, Mr Mrkiæ said that Serbia will proceed steadily to its accession process and noted that they hope that their steps and efforts would be duly recognised and be properly assessed.
The Foreign Minister also said that they discussed Serbia-Cyprus bilateral relations and cooperation in all fields, stating that “one could easily conclude that our bonds are both exceptional and exemplary”.
“Cyprus has always been one of the staunchest supporters of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and Serbia will never waver in its devotion to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus. We have supported, we do support and we shall support a comprehensive and durable solution of the Cyprus problem as formulated by your government and by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” he concluded.