Cyprus has become an anchor of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, said Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides in Berlin.
Addressing an event at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung foundation, Christodoulides said the island is a natural bridge between the two, and the Union’s lighthouse in the Mediterranean sea and stands ready to work with the Union to fulfil the immense potential and promise of the our immediate neighbourhood, to the benefit of the region and of Europe.
In his speech, the Cypriot FM said the root causes of the humanitarian migration crisis the EU stem from the region of the Eastern Mediterranean. Christodoulides remarked that “unless we effectively address the root causes of the migration crisis, unless Europe becomes an active political actor in the Eastern Mediterranean – in Syria, Lebanon, in the Middle East Peace Process – we will not be able to effectively tackle the migration crisis in Europe. The same goes to other serious challenges we face at home, in Europe, such as the spread of violent extremism”.
A second dimension in considering the region’s geostrategic importance, he said, relates not to its challenges but to the promises it holds as it is a region witnessing remarkable demographic and social change.
A third parameter that renders it imperative to pay closer attention to the Eastern Mediterranean is its energy potential, which can contribute decisively to Europe’s energy policy of diversification as a route to greater energy security. According to the USA Geological Survey assessments, the total quantities of natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean are estimated to be 9700 billion cubic meters. So far approximately 2800 bcm have been discovered in the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus, Egypt and Israel.
The presence of energy giants in the region such as EXXONMOBIL, ENI, TOTAL, NOBLE, SHELL, to name a few, are proof of this potential, said the Foreign Minister. The Eastern Mediterranean’s immense potential, and how this can serve the goal of the EU for alternative energy route – with the political ramifications this entails – are evident from these numbers.
Hydrocarbons, he added, can become the new coal and steel, in a new regional context. A tool of cooperation and synergies that would create an economy of scale, an inviting environment for companies and investors.
We believe, he added, that Cyprus, a member state of the Union and at the same time a country of the region with excellent bilateral relations with its neighbours and a deep understanding of the dynamic of the region, can play a catalytic role in this direction.
At this point, he explained the geostrategic value of Cyprus as a bridge between the region and Europe, noting its proximity to the countries of the region.
The Minister said that Cyprus, recognising the rising importance of its immediate neighbourhood, it has recently re-oriented its foreign policy and is actively and methodically enhancing and expanding its ties with the countries of the Middle East and the Gulf region.
Our partners in the region see Cyprus as a credible, trustworthy, reliable voice between them and the European Union, and are eager to engage and look for alternative, more constructive channels through which to do so. He said “Cyprus is already advancing the cause, and in doing so, my argument goes, Cyprus has become an anchor of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean”. Explaining how Cyprus does so, he said “Cyprus’ role as an anchor of stability is perhaps most vividly demonstrated by the web of trilateral cooperation mechanisms we have established in the region”.
“Working with Greece, and others in the region, such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinians, Cyprus has created these fora that constitute a prime example of good neighborly relations, a basic tenet of the EU and of the EU’s relations with third countries”, said Christodoulides, adding the trilateral mechanisms are arguably one the most successful additions to Cyprus’s foreign policy footprint, and a manifestation of our strategy to create synergies and forge closer cooperation with moderate countries of the region.
Energy, he said, was the trigger of the trilateral mechanisms, and has continued to be one of the central tenets of the trilateral mechanisms. Having realized the incredible energy potential of the region Cyprus embarked in negotiations that led to the conclusion of delimitation Agreements with Egypt, Israel and Lebanon while the delimitation of “our seas has created a new regional dynamic and a new diplomatic framework”.
He also said that Cyprus-Greece and Israel, have expanded their talks to include Italy and the European Commission in their discussions of cooperation on energy related issues and are currently in advanced discussions with France on the creation of a new cooperation formation in the region. Cyprus is also in discussions with Gulf states for creating such mechanisms involving them, with a tailor made agenda.
Another example of how Cyprus is acting as an anchor of stability, he said, is its active role in the area of regional security and countering terrorism. For Cyprus this is a collaborative, multilateral effort. He further noted that it is in close dialogue and collaboration with its regional neighbors, “all recognizing for example that the nature of 21st century terrorism is international and fluid”.
Referring to the Cyprus problem, he said that despite its complexities, “the heart of the problem is rather straight-forward. The Cyprus problem is a punch in the face of value-based international order, a flagrant violation of the most fundamental principles of international and European law. A problem of illegal invasion, subsequent occupation and violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of an EU member state, and a gross violation of fundamental rights and freedoms of Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots”.
The Cyprus question, he underlined, “is a European question, and its solution must be a European one. With no permanent derogations that would render Cyprus a second-class EU member State, and which would ultimately be a blow to European unity, cohesion, and to the value-based system the Union is. The best guarantee for reunited Cyprus is its capacity as an EU member state. A pre-requisite for a united, sovereign Europe, is that its constituent parts – its member states – are also truly sovereign. The EU must actively uphold the principles that form its nucleus in the context of Cyprus, in an uncompromising manner to those who challenge the most basic tenets of European architecture.”
A viable solution to the Cyprus problem, which is a feasible goal, would not only amplify Cyprus’s bridging capacity, but would also mark a paradigm shift in bringing about peace and stability in the region.
The Eastern Mediterranean is the EU’s neighbourhood, and a vital one and “Cyprus is natural bridge between the two, and the Union’s lighthouse in the Mediterranean sea. We stand ready to work with the Union, with all its member states, including Germany, a country with strong leverage in the region and the world scene, in order to fulfill the immense potential and promise of the our immediate neighbourhood, to the benefit of the region and of Europe”, he concluded.
Earlier Tuesday, Christodoulides met with the Minister of State for Europe at the German Federal Foreign Office, Michael Roth where they exchanged views on security in Eastern Mediterranean, the future of the EU-Turkey relations, the immigration issue, Brexit and other issues.
He also met with Gunther Krichbaum, who holds the chair of the Committee on European Union Affairs of the German Bundestag. The two exchanged views on international and European matters of mutual interest and the minister informed him on the latest Cyprus developments.
(Cyprus News Agency)