It is with great pleasure that I welcome today my esteemed colleague and friend, Miroslav Lajčák, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic to Cyprus and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Nicosia.
Miroslav is a colleague with vast experience and a remarkable footprint in international affairs. In the past couple of years alone, he has successfully served as President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, whilst currently he is the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, until the end of 2019.
We had today the opportunity to exchange views on a wide range of issues. First and foremost, we had a substantial and forward-looking discussion on the full spectrum of our bilateral relations. In relation to our political dialogue in particular, we noted the good record of bilateral visits we have exchanged in recent years and examined concrete ways in which we could enhance our cooperation further.
On my part, I also conveyed our deep appreciation for Slovakia’s contribution to UNFICYP with a sizeable contingent over the past 18 years. Our partners' contribution towards maintaining peace and stability on the island, whilst the Turkish military occupation and the forceful division persist, is vital — amongst other things — in fostering an environment within which meaningful negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem can take place.
In the same context, I expressed the Cyprus Government’s appreciation for Slovakia’s commitment and determination - over the last thirty years - to host under the auspices of its Ambassadors to Cyprus the meetings between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot political parties, facilitating the bi-communal dialogue. Additionally, I thanked Miroslav for Slovakia’s financial contribution to the Committee on Missing Persons.
Slovakia’s continued interest in the Cyprus problem speaks for itself. It is therefore natural that I took the opportunity this morning to brief my colleague extensively on the latest developments with regard to the Cyprus problem. I shared with him our strong commitment to the resumption of negotiations as soon as possible, with the aim of reaching a settlement on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation— in line with EU Law, values and principles — that will reunite Cyprus ensuring that it remains a functional, effective EU Member State.
For negotiations to resume however, we agreed with Miroslav that Turkey must of course stop first its illegal and provocative activities within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus, which are in flagrant breach of International and European Law and the sovereign rights of the Republic.
In relation to Turkey’s illegal activities in the EEZ of Cyprus, I also briefed Miroslav on the latest developments, sharing with him some new information. I was particularly pleased to note that he reaffirmed during our meeting ― as he has done in public ― that Slovakia’s position is fully in line with the relevant statement made by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. As he very successfully put it in an interview, this statement formulates a framework position for all EU Member States on the fundamental issue of the EU foreign and security policy.
Our deliberations also touched upon a broad range of current issues of common interest and concern from our common European agenda. In this context, we exchanged views and compared notes inter alia on Brexit, the Strategic Agenda Priorities for 2019-2024, as well as the development of European Defence. We noted with satisfaction that Cyprus and Slovakia participate jointly in two programs in the framework of the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation in the area of security and defence policy.
Moreover, we discussed the priorities of Slovakia’s current Chairmanship of the OSCE and I was privileged to hear from Miroslav about his vision on how the Organisation can contribute to the stability and peace of long-troubled crises areas. I expressed to him Cyprus’ full support in this regard.
As you may know, both Cyprus and Slovakia are bidding to host the European Labour Authority. We agree with Miroslav that all Member States should host an EU Agency and that is one of the reasons both our countries are bidding for ELA. There is mutual respect for the high quality of our two candidatures and we can only hope that the best bid will win!
In closing I wish to thank you for your visit today and I look forward to continuing to work with you bilaterally, in the context of the EU and in support of your Chairmanship of the OSCE.