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Christodoulides Says EU Must Be More Actively Engaged In The Region

Christodoulides Says EU Must Be More Actively Engaged In The Region

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Christodoulides, said Thursday that a wind of change is sweeping across the Eastern Mediterranean and wider Middle East, as like-minded countries in the region, with an exclusively positive agenda that is inclusive, come together to promote a vision of cooperation, peace and stability.

He also stressed that what is of utmost importance is for the EU to support these efforts, to be more actively engaged in the region, and not merely follow and react to developments.

The Minister, was speaking at a panel discussion entitled "Mediterranean: A Geostrategic Chessboard",  held in the framework of the Bled Strategic Forum which takes place annually in the Slovenian town with the same name. Other speakers at the panel discussion included Foreign Ministers of Spain Malta, Greece, Slovenia and Portugal.

Christodoulides said that enhancing ties with countries in the region, with which Cyprus maintains historically excellent relations, is one of the pillars of Cyprus foreign policy.

"We are investing political and diplomatic capital in the region because we believe in the region’s increasing geostrategic importance, which relates not only to its challenges but also to the promises it holds" he stressed.

Expressing the view that a wind of change is sweeping across the Eastern Mediterranean and wider Middle East, he gave as examples the normalisation agreements between Israel and countries of the region, the signature in September 2020 of the Energy Forum Established in Cairo (with the participation of Egypt, Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Italy, France, with US and hopefully UAE soon as observers),  the creation in Cyprus of a regional training centre for security on land, open seas and ports following an agreement between the US and Cyprus. Other examples, he added, are the Philia forum organized by Greece this past February with the participation of Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, UAE and France and the Paphos Meeting hosted by Cyprus in April, with the participation of Greece, as well as Israel and UAE - "their first ever meeting since the normalization of their relations" adding that a second meeting is expected to take place soon.

This change, he continued, started unfolding a few years ago with smaller, yet bold steps, triggered initially by the discovery of hydrocarbons in the maritime zones of the countries in the region.  "These discoveries brought countries of the region together, guided by international law and good neighbourly relations to delimit their seas" he continued.

Christodoulides said that since 2014, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, the UAE and other countries came together and formed cooperation mechanisms that over the last years have gained significant momentum, always maintaining their positive, inclusive agenda. They have expanded thematically into areas such as security, environment, climate change, education and innovation, he said.

He underlined that these cooperation mechanisms are neither exclusionary, nor restricted to the countries already mentioned.

"They can be formed with other countries, on the sole condition they respect international law and share the vision for a peaceful and stable region".

The Cypriot Foreign Minister noted that what is of utmost importance is for the EU to support these efforts, to be more actively engaged in the region, not merely follow and react to developments.

"Cyprus, as well as Greece and other member states, are constantly making this point in Brussels, that there is a need for more engagement, more meaningful support of the EU in the region. Afghanistan is creating additional challenges that we will all have to face, and being limited to an approach that only reacts to events unfolding is simply not enough, it doesn’t serve the interests of the region nor of the EU", he concluded.

Source: CNA

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