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Cyprus-Egypt bilateral strategic relation positive for East Med security FMs say

Cyprus and Egypt have a bilateral strategic relationship that contributes positively to the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Foreign Ministers of Cyprus and Egypt, Constantinos Kombos and Sameh Shoukry, have said.

The comments followed a meeting they had in Nicosia on 8 February.

The two ministers also highlighted bilateral cooperation in the energy sector and reiterated the importance of providing more humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza.

In his statement following the meeting, Kombos said that Cyprus and Egypt are strategic partners that have worked closely together to build solid and principled relations, guided by honesty and trust, common interests and transparency, and tasked to both advance further and deepen in tangible terms their bilateral partnership.

Regarding today’s deliberations, the Foreign Minister of Cyprus said that foundational elements, such as the common commitment to principles of international law, to the rules-based international order, as well as to the instrumental role of regional multilateralism, were discussed.

He added that he briefed his Egyptian counterpart on the latest developments regarding the Cyprus problem and expressed the Republic of Cyprus readiness to support the UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy and to work closely together with the aim of breaking the deadlock and resuming substantive negotiations, in order to reach a viable and lasting solution on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, as provided in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, and “nothing less”.

In this direction, he said Egypt’s long-standing principled stand, in all international fora, is highly appreciated and precious.

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As regards bilateral agenda issues, the Foreign Minister said that they focused on energy cooperation, adding that the transportation of natural gas from the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus to Egypt for liquefaction remains a predominant development option for the involved companies.

He noted that politically the Republic of Cyprus is fully cognizant of Egypt’s unique role in the energy field in the region and beyond, with the continuing cooperation between Egypt and Cyprus within the framework of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) being an integral component in their energy relation.

Regarding the strengthening of the relations between Egypt and the European Union, Kombos said they discussed the next steps to implement and expand the 10th EU-Egypt Association Council outcomes, in line with Egypt’s crucial geostrategic role and its valuable contribution to the EU’s security in a number of areas.

“Migration control, energy diversification and regional stability could not be taken for granted, and Egypt has been, and remains, a pillar of reason and reliability at a high and increasing cost, that needs to be fully and creatively addressed by the EU. This is the message that Cyprus has been delivering to Brussels, and we will continue to do so”, he stressed on the matter.

The Foreign Minister also shared Cyprus’ profound concern as regards the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, as well as the developments in the Red Sea, adding that Cyprus underscores that de-escalation and the resumption of the peace process, based on a two-state solution as per UN Security Council resolutions, is the only way to end the cycle of violence and the only way of fostering conditions of peace and stability.

He also referred to the importance of getting more aid into Gaza for the civilians in need and acknowledged Egypt’s vital contribution in tirelessly delivering aid to Gaza through the Rafah crossing point.

“In this context, we also discussed Cyprus’ efforts including through the initiative for a dedicated one-way maritime corridor as one more way of providing additional aid to civilians that desperately need it. As an integral partner of the region, Cyprus has a moral duty to do its own part. Also, let me once again state the obvious. Cyprus rejects in the most absolute terms any displacement of a single Palestinian from Gaza”, he concluded.

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On his part, Sameh Soukry said that following the meeting with President Christodoulides, he had the opportunity to discuss with his Cypriot counterpart the bilateral relations, regional and international matters of mutual interest.

He added that they highlighted the constructive coordination between Egypt and Cyprus regarding regional and international issues, based on their shared values and mutual commitment to international norms. He also said that they discussed the economic cooperation, human rights, legal migration and mutual support of international candidacies, among other issues of common interest.

The Egyptian Foreign Minister reiterated his country’s satisfaction with the progress of cooperation at the bilateral level as they work towards strengthening the cooperation with Cyprus in all sectors, especially in the energy sector, including gas, oil, electricity, trade and investment, agriculture and fisheries and renewable energy sectors.

He added that the two sides agreed to establish a joint Business Council as a follow up to discussions held during the visit of the President of Cyprus to Cairo last April, and highlighted the importance of convening the second session of the High Governmental Commission in Cyprus in the near future, keeping up with the agreement between the two leaders. He also said that Egypt is looking forward to signing several agreements and MoUs serving the interests and benefits of both peoples.

The meeting was also a good opportunity to discuss trilateral cooperation with Greece following the visit of the Greek Foreign Minister in Cairo recently, he noted, adding that there was an agreement on finalising the needed preparations for the 10th summit of the trilateral mechanism, which will be hosted by Egypt.

The increasingly deteriorating situation of the region and particularly the situation of the occupied Palestinian territories, has featured highly on our agenda and our discussions, continued Shoukry, noting that “the loss of lives in Gaza has reached an unprecedented level, as the death toll is exceeding 27,000 civilian Palestinians, 2/3 of whom are women and children, with grave violations of international law and international humanitarian law, including the targeting of civilians and infrastructure by Israel, the occupying power, including malls, hospitals, schools, which have resulted in the displacement of more than 80% of the population of Gaza”.

“Human suffering in Gaza is unthinkable. The humanitarian support system is on the verge of collapsing and the threats of a dangerous expansion of the conflict are real and unfolding. Egypt is working with the parties and major stakeholders towards achieving a ceasefire and calls upon the international community to show their responsibility in this regard, while also increasing pressure in order to facilitate a safe, unhindered and swift humanitarian access to and throughout the Gaza strip and to fully implement Security Council resolutions, including recently adopted Security Council resolution 2027, which calls for the establishment of a mechanism in Gaza for the purpose of providing a larger volume of assistance”, he added on the matter.

He added that Egypt is also urging the international community, especially the donor countries, to extend their fullest support to the work of the international humanitarian organisations and in particular UNRWA, whose role is indispensable in Gaza, and provide this exceptional life-saving assistance and services to the Palestinian people in need, not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank, Syria and Lebanon, Jordan.

“We believe that the role that it has been playing is indispensable and that it should not be tainted by any misactions of a few that should not have resulted in jumping to conclusions and restricting the support that this humanitarian organisation undertakes”, he stressed.

According to Shoukry, the two Ministers also discussed during the meeting ways and means of cooperation to provide support to the humanitarian work in Gaza. After expressing his appreciation to Cyprus, he said Egypt will continue to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza by increasing the amount of assistance and facilitating its access.

He also said that they also discussed the necessity of reinvigorating the path towards the two-state solution. “Egypt believes that the time has come to transcend from a process and to take serious steps towards implementing the two-state solution, including through ending the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent, viable, contiguous Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital. We agreed that more concrete effort should be exerted to contain regional confrontation and achieve de-escalation on all fronts, including on the border between Lebanon and Israel”, he noted in this regard.

He added that Egypt is gravely concerned over the escalation in the Red Sea with direct impact on maritime routes and international trade and underlined the fact that bringing about a ceasefire in Gaza will help achieve de-escalation on other fronts, while concerning issues pertaining to the region, especially the situation of both Syria and Libya, he said the two sides agreed that efforts should be ramped up to ensure stability and reconciliation in these countries and enhance security and prosperity in the region at large.

“We believe that this is a strategic relationship and that it contributes very positively to the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean, a relationship well founded and cemented in a long history of affinity between our peoples, but also shared values and a desire at the highest political level to reinforce this relationship and find new areas of cooperation in all fields”, he noted.

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Asked whether he believed that humanitarian aid initiatives for Gaza, such as that of Cyprus, can happen without a ceasefire in place, the Egyptian Foreign Minister said it is fundamentally important to have humanitarian assistance, "despite the fact that we are calling for an immediate ceasefire," adding that an immediate ceasefire will certainly contribute positively to increasing the aid volume.

“That does not preclude that we have to maintain the needs of the Palestinian people even though the military actions continue, it does not detract from our call for an immediate ceasefire and that all forms of increased volume of assistance is necessary”, he noted, adding that the people in Gaza are living under very difficult circumstances, with 1.3 million people now concentrated in the South and Rafah.

“There is starvation, there is famine, there is lack of medical supplies. Sanitary conditions are terrible and all of these issues must be met. This only reemphasizes the need for a ceasefire to meet these humanitarian issues. It is important to recognise the enormity of the loss of life, as according to the latest statistics of UNICEF 17,000 children have lost one or both their parents. What sort of human rights conditions is this?”, he noted in conclusion.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar of Colombia as his personal envoy for Cyprus, to assume a Good Offices role on his behalf and search for common ground on the way forward in the Cyprus issue.

(Source: CNA)

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