It is with distinct pleasure that I welcome today to Nicosia, my good friend, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates. I am exceptionally pleased and honoured to receive and host you and your delegation in Cyprus.
At the outset I wish to emphasise that your visit to Cyprus is highly significant for an array of reasons. First and foremost it signifies the very conscious, joint political will and commitment of Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates to concretely enhance their relations, both at the bilateral and at the multilateral level. This is inextricably linked with the fact that one of the core pillars of Cyprus’s foreign policy is the enhancement and expansion of relations with its neighbouring Middle East and Gulf countries. It is in this context that I visited the UAE in June 2018, very soon after assuming my duties as Foreign Minister, as part of a tour of visits to the whole region – which is Cyprus’s neighbourhood but also the EU’s neighbourhood. Further to our meeting last June, Sheikh Abdullah and I met again in New York in the framework of the 73rd UN General Assembly, and then once more in the context of the Sir Bani Yas Forum in the UAE, one of His Highness’s great personal initiatives.
In short, there is a shared understanding that together we can address common challenges – from the rise of extremism to climate change - more effectively. This was evident throughout our very insightful discussions today. As you will no doubt expect, we discussed the recent attacks that took place in the Gulf region. I underlined to my friend the Minister that Cyprus stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the UAE and our partners in the region in condemning any acts of terror and in conveying a clear message of our undiminished resolve to work together to counter this phenomenon.
We discussed extensively tangible ways of further advancing our bilateral relations. The momentum gained in recent years is demonstrated by the signing today of the Memorandum of Understanding on Establishing a Joint Committee of Cooperation, as well as the Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation. These are two very important agreements setting the legal framework for the way forward in further expanding our relations, in the political as well as in the economic sectors. I am also very pleased that only a few days ago a number of high ranking military officials from the UAE participated as observers in the multinational exercise on civil – military cooperation “Argonaut”, a search and rescue exercise that took place in Cyprus.
On EU-UAE relations, I reiterated that Cyprus is a strong supporter of these relations and an advocate in Brussels for their meaningful and multi-dimensional enhancement. The signing of the Cooperation Arrangement is an important step in this direction, and we look forward to the further advancement of this important relationship.
On regional issues, I took the opportunity to brief Sheikh Abdullah on President Anastasiades’ important regional initiative on climate change involving countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and Gulf region, which share the same climatic characteristics.
We also exchanged views on specific regional developments. With regards to Syria, I expressed Cyprus’s continued support for the U.N- led Geneva peace process, as well as our serious concern with the continuing refugee and humanitarian crisis. On Yemen, I listened carefully to His Highness’s evaluation of the situation on the ground. I expressed our support to UN Special Envoy Griffiths and reiterated the importance for the agreements reached to be implemented, while at the same time we shared our concerns regarding the dire humanitarian situation. We discussed the situation with regards to the Middle East Peace Process ahead of the Manama meeting later this month and the anticipated US plan. A solution to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, based on the internationally accepted parameters, namely the two-state solution, is indispensable to the stability and security of the region.
I had the opportunity to brief Sheikh Abdullah on the latest developments in the trilateral cooperation mechanisms Cyprus and Greece have established with countries in the region, including Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine. Their common denominator is a shared vision for a future of peace, stability and prosperity in our region. They are inclusive and exclude no one who shares their vision and respects the core principles on which they are based.
Regrettably the sole exception to this model of cooperation is Turkey. I informed the Minister in detail on Turkey’s recent escalating illegal actions in our EEZ and the increased militarization of the area by Turkey. Turkey’s actions not only violate international law and Cyprus’s sovereign rights, they also constitute an integral part of Turkey’s concerted strategy to exert control in the Eastern Mediterranean, including the energy developments, at the expense of the sovereign rights of other countries in the region, thus putting in high risk the peace, security and stability of our volatile region.
As expected, I briefed my colleague on the latest developments in our continued and committed efforts to resume negotiations for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus Problem. We very much appreciate the UAE’s clear support to these efforts. We expect Turkey to cease its gunboat diplomacy so as to pave the way for the resumption of the negotiations under UN auspices for the reunification of Cyprus.
Once again, let me warmly welcome you to Cyprus and thank you for your enduring friendship. I look forward to continuing our close collaboration for the further enhancement of Cyprus-UAE relations, for the benefit of our countries and their peoples, and of the region.