Cyprus aims to ensure that there is security and cooperation in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Kasoulides stated on Friday, at a press conference during which he presented the work of his Ministry.
Kasoulides strongly denied a report published by the Iraqi website thebaghdadpost.com claiming that fifteen Saudi Arabian warplanes are stationed in Cyprus and are set to attack Hezbollah positions in Lebanon.
“Black clouds are coming from Lebanon” Kasoulides told the reporters and added that Cyprus is prepared to implement the “Hestia” plan in the event of evacuation of foreign citizens from the neighbouring country, recalling that Cyprus has signed relevant agreements with several countries.
“We seek help from the international community to terminate Turkey`s occupation of the island`s northern areas. It would be amiss if we were indifferent to providing help on the pretext of Cyprus being targetted by terrorists. We ought to help in that Cyprus is seen as a partner in the efforts of the international community,” the Minister said.
On Cyprus’ cooperation with other countries in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, Kasoulides said that the Foreign Ministry coordinates all the other state agencies to set up a broad field of tripartite cooperation in energy, tourism, technology, start – ups and agriculture. With Egypt and Israel, he said, there are deadlines on convening summits once or twice a year.
He also said that as a member of the anti-terrorist coalition, Cyprus has supplied the Kurdish Peshmerga, the Lebanese military and Jordan with old arms worth 30 mn euro, which are no longer used by the National Guard, to fight terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, Boko Haram and Al Shabaab.
This, he pointed out, was done in cooperation with the United States, which transported the material twice on behalf of Cyprus to Iraq, and with France, which transferred the material to Lebanon.
It is in the interest of Cyprus, he noted, to prevent terrorist groups from reaching the coasts of the Eastern Mediterranean.
“Our active role in regional policy and the knowledge and experience we have gained in our tripartite partnerships give us the opportunity to claim within the EU the role of an experienced member state which maintains close relations with its neighbouring countries. Our regional policy is an added value in the EU common security and defence policy,” he added.
Cyprus, he noted, has worked closely with the US to combat terrorism, adding that the island’s geographical position has been very important to that end.
Relations with Russia, he said, are completely balanced and Cyprus plays a role in the EU -Russia ties, whereas with the UK there is a new field of cooperation in security.
There is a close strategic relation with France, Kasoulides noted, while on relations with China he said that Cyprus will participate as a shareholder in the Bank for Development and Infrastructure, based in Beijing.
On energy matters, the Minister said that Cyprus has never given up its right to submit coordinates for the delineation of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), adding that energy planning continues irrespective of Turkey`s moves.
Asked what would happen if the Turkish platform came close to block six, where foreign oil companies are operating, Kasoulides said that measures to address such an eventuality have already been decided, noting however that such a move by Ankara cannot be prevented.
During the press conference the Minister expressed concern over the increasing number of Syrian refugees arriving on the island, and said he would not rule out the possibility of the Turkish authorities organising such arrivals or “turning a blind eye to them”.
“We treat these refugees in line with the provisions of international conventions and agreements,” Kasoulides assured.
The Minister reiterated that Cyprus would not agree to the opening of any chapters in Turkey’s accession negotiations with the EU nor will Nicosia give its consent to updating the Customs Union with Ankara or agree to visa liberalisation unless the issue of flight safety is resolved.
must remain effective
Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Kasoulides has said that it is important that the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) continues to be effective with the same mandate from the UN Security Council.
Kasoulides said that the presence of all UN peace missions is being evaluated by the UN, but said that Nicosia is not concerned by this, noting it is important that UNFICYP remains effective in Cyprus and maintains the same mandate.
Replying to questions, he said that UNFICYP comprises of 887 military members and stressed that this number is at its limits and must not be reduced.
He added that what is being discussed is the reduction of non- military services and cost. He pointed out that there are ways to cut costs like, for instance, modernizing vehicles and monitoring with drones instead of helicopters.
Replying to questions, the Minister referred to Turkish statements that the UNFICYP’s presence should be reduced to observers and that UNFICYP is not necessary for services such as the assistance to the enclaved.
It is noted that the Turkish Cypriot regime has imposed ‘taxes’ on the humanitarian aid sent, via the UN, to the enclaved. The Government of Cyprus has protested this decision describing it as unacceptable.
The Foreign Minister said that UNFICYP’s press releases as well as the statements made by Head of UNFICYP in Cyprus Elizabeth Spehar which express sorrow for this decision, are circulated via Cyprus’ diplomatic missions abroad. In addition, he said that Cyprus’ Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe has raised the issue. Kasoulides said that it is deplorable that the Turkish Permanent Representative’s reply was in line with the Turkish Cypriot arguments.
Concluding, he reassured that the government has taken care of the issue and offers practical assistance to the enclaved.