Britain and Cyprus have a very strong relationship that is getting deeper and wider, UK High Commissioner to Nicosia, Stephen Lilly, has said.
And that defence engagement between the two countries is an important part of this growing relationship.
Lilly was visiting the Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth which has docked at Limassol port.
“The Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth is a visible demonstration of Britain`s commitment to be an active, energetic country of the world stage.”
“We have a very strong relationship between Britain and Cyprus. It is a relationship that is getting deeper and wider. Defence engagement is an important part of that growing relationship and having the Royal Navy flagship here sends a very strong signal that we want to develop that,” Lilly also said on Thursday.
He also said that they had welcomed on board the Minister of Defence, Charalambos Petrides and the Chief of the National Guard, Demokritos Zervakis. “So that is a really good collaboration. They can see for themselves our capabilities,” he said.
Lilly also said that they look forward to welcome Cyprus President, Nicos Anastasiades, on board.
“We look forward to show him the capabilities, the strength of the ship. To be able to explain what carrier strike group 21 is doing to contribute not only to UK security but to EU security as a whole and to a peaceful and stable eastern Mediterranean. That is very much a shared interest of Britain and Cyprus,” he added.
British Bases Commander Major General Rob Thomson told the media that the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth in Limassol new port effectively does three things.
“One, it underlines the British commitment to the Eastern Mediterranean to make sure that it remains secure and stable. Secondly it underlines the importance of our friendship and our partnership with the Republic of Cyprus which is really important to us in so many ways. Very strong people to people links but we have an amazing partnership and friendship between the bases and the Republic of Cyprus as well. And thirdly, for the Bases, we have been absolutely fundamental to the delivery of the strike group in this corner of the Mediterranean,” he noted.
“Not necessarily a very glamorous task but we have been here for logistics, we are here to help them with people issues and that is being really important”, he added.
He went on to say that “we have been working very closely and arranged different things with the carrier strike group and the troops that are in the bases. That is good for us and that is good for the carrier.”
Captain of the HMS Queen Elizabeth, Angus Essenhigh, said that the ship is a brand new state of the art, 5th generation aircraft carrier. “It is a real treat for us to be here. We are using this as a logistic stop before carrying on with our 7 month deployment away from the UK,” he added, noting that they are leaving on Monday.
“We will go through the Suez Canal out to the Indian Ocean and beyond and this trip will get us as far as Japan. We have been in the sea for the last 3 weeks contributing to what we call Operation Shader, an operation designed to deal with the last remaining of Daesh the terrorist group. So our jets have been flying to support that mission in northern Iraq,” he noted.