The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, met today at the Foreign Ministry the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian National Authority, Dr Riad al-Malki, who carried out an official visit to Cyprus, at the invitation of his Cypriot counterpart. Following a tête-à-tête meeting of the two Foreign Ministers and extensive consultations between the two delegations, Dr Kozakou-Marcoullis and Dr al-Malki held a joint press conference.
The Cypriot Foreign Minister in her initial statement said the following:
“It is with great pleasure and a genuine feeling of friendship that I received today my Palestinian counterpart, Dr Riad al-Malki, with whom I held a very constructive meeting, during which we reiterated the need to further enhance, to further strengthen the historic bilateral relations between Cyprus and the Palestinian people.
I am certain that the visit of the Foreign Minister of Palestine, which signifies the strong bonds and the mutual respect that exists between our two countries, as well as the meetings to be held with other officials of the Government, will provide a new momentum to an all-round development of the relations between our two people. These relations already have been given an added impetus during recent years, through, among others, the opening of the Cyprus Representation Office in Ramallah in 2009, as well as, through the upgrading of the Palestinian diplomatic representation to Cyprus to the status of a Diplomatic Mission, in 2011.
I reassured my Palestinian counterpart that Cyprus remains ready to assist both bilaterally and internationally the further development of the Palestinian welfare and society. In addition, I expressed the commitment that Cyprus will continue being at the forefront and systematically support the rights of the Palestinian people in international fora and in the European Union as a matter of principle.
With regards to development cooperation, I assured my counterpart of our strong and continued commitment towards the support of the Palestinian people, to whom Cyprus has, since 2008, allocated approximately 3 million US dollars.
In regards to the Middle East peace process, I have reiterated that Cyprus supports a comprehensive approach, which will lead to a two-state solution. Such a solution would entail that the State of Israel will co-exist with an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian state. In addition, the two-state solution must be the product of negotiations. All international efforts must be focused in containing the situation and restarting the process.
Furthermore, I expressed the condemnation of Cyprus to the settlement activity taking place in the West Bank, as this is considered illegal under international law, while it only causes harm and impedes peace efforts. On the contrary, I expressed the need for the implementation of further confidence building measures by both sides. Along these lines, I welcomed the signature of agreements by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister and Israeli Finance Minister on 31st July 2012, to improve the regulation of Israeli – Palestinian bilateral trade and taxation arrangements.
Let me say finally, that it was for us a distinct pleasure and honour to have the Foreign Minister with us and make an assessment not only of the bilateral relations and how to boost them, but, moreover exchange views on the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian situation, but also we had an exchange of views with regard to the situation in the region and especially Syria.”
On his part, speaking to the press corps the Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority said that it is really a great honour to be in Cyprus, noting that he always feels very close to this beautiful country and its people. Expressing his complete agreement with the initial statement of Dr Kozakou-Marcoullis, Dr al-Malki stated: “I think that bonds that bring us together are strong and we share many principles and various similarities. At the same time, our working relationship has been always strong, professional, friendly and committed. I have heard from the Foreign Minister exactly the same statements that I have heard from her before, always reiterating the same strong position of Cyprus when comes to justice and the just cause of the Palestinian people and the right of the Palestinians to have their own homeland, state of their own, a Palestinian state living side by side next to the State of Israel in peace and security. I think we share the same position and we feel very much strengthened with the position that Cyprus always had and the influence of that position within the EU and the international community.
The fact that Cyprus today presides over the Council of the EU is a great benefit and a great opportunity for Palestine, because Cyprus will try to do justice. And to take advantage of the fact that it is really presiding over the Council, we feel very much empowered. And we know from the statements and the positions, which Cyprus have had over the time, that Palestine is in good hands and during the Presidency of Cyprus we do expect progress to be made at the level of the EU.”
Regarding the bilateral relations between Cyprus and Palestine, Dr al-Malki said that they discussed different options and that they decided to activate the political consultation, noting that they expect a delegation from the Foreign Ministry of Cyprus to Palestine very soon in order to move forward on that field. “But this should not impede us from exploring possible engagement in other sectors and fields, and that is why we have discussed the possibility of really looking into other areas and fields in the near future, such as a Palestinian-Cyprus Joint Committee headed by both Ministers of Foreign Affairs. And this should really move our relationship even further and reflects the real desire of Cyprus and Palestine that the relationship should move into a higher level,” he noted.
The Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister also expressed his confidence that the outcome of his visit will promote the relationship of the two countries even further. “I am going to leave Cyprus with great optimism that we are on the right track and always Palestine is lucky to have a good friend like Cyprus,” he concluded.
Responding to a question regarding Syria and if there is any concern about this spill-over affect of the conflict there that causes instability in the wide region, the Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister said: “You know, we are very much worried not only as Palestine but also as the Arab League, the collective 22 countries, and I do believe other countries within the region, Cyprus is one of them. If I do recall since the eruption of that conflict in Syria the Arab Foreign Ministers have met not less than 20 times to discuss the issue of Syria and that really shows how much we are worried, how much we are concerned, how much we want the League to intervene in order to prevent the further bloodshed and destruction within Syria. We want to lead toward the safeguarding of the territorial integrity of Syria; we want to lead toward maintaining peace and to seek, of course, national dialogue between the different groups in Syria. So, yes we are worried about the spill-over, and that’s why we have supported Kofi Annan’s Plan, that’s why, before that, we had sent Arab observers into Syria and right now there is a draft resolution being sponsored by Arabs in the General Assembly. It is going to be discussed today and so it reflects how much we are involved and we would like very much to do our utmost in order to really help put an end to this drastic episode that is happening within Syria. We have discussed this with Her Excellence the Minister, even with the President, and we will always continue exchanging views and information and trying see what we could do together, not only Cyprus and Palestine, but also the EU, the Arab League and the international community because it is really a big responsibility when it comes to Syria.”
Clarifying what he meant by “intervention”, Dr al-Malki said: “We are trying to help in order to put an end to the conflict. Kofi Annan’s Plan is a reflection of that. Right now, the fact we are going to the General Assembly is another way, it is really the type of activism we are trying to do in order to avert the civil war and further bloodshed within Syria.