Slovakia and Cyprus are both members of the big family of the European Union, having joined together in 2004, and I am very pleased to note that in many ways we are like-minded countries, with common approaches in most issues on our common EU agenda.
We had the opportunity in the course of our deliberations today to follow up on number of issues that are part of our rich bilateral dialogue.
We also of course exchanged views on current issues from our European agenda, as well as on regional and international affairs and developments that are of common interest and concern.
We noted with satisfaction that our bilateral cooperation is at a high level. Despite the fact that in recent years we have regularly exchanged high level visits, we deem necessary to further enhance contacts at all levels, as new opportunities and challenges create the need for ever closer dialogue and cooperation.
In this context, we agreed that it is essential to take concrete steps in creating additional opportunities and possibilities for the people of our countries to benefit. We therefore reaffirmed our willingness to finalise negotiations on pending bilateral documents in the areas of security and defence, as well as in education, and to work together for the re-establishment of direct flights between Cyprus and Slovakia, as soon as conditions allow, as these will nurture people to people contacts and increase bilateral cooperation in fields such as tourism, business and trade.
I had the opportunity to express to Ivan our appreciation for Slovakia’s unwavering position and indispensable support with regard to the Cyprus problem, as well as for his country’s contribution to the bi-communal dialogue through facilitation of the meetings between Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot political parties. Needless to say, the invaluable contribution of the Slovak contingent to UNFICYP is nowadays more important than ever, given the increasing provocations by the Turkish occupation forces along the ceasefire line.
In the same vein, we discussed Turkey’s escalating provocations in relation to Varosha, as well as in Cyprus’s EEZ and maritime zones. Blatantly disregarding the calls by the international community, Turkey continues unabated with its plans to create new fait accompli on the ground. The international community cannot remain idle, especially at this particular point in time when the Secretary General of the UN is working to prepare the ground for the re-launching of negotiations, from the point where the last process was suspended in Crans Montana.
From an EU perspective, the European Council Conclusions adopted by the Leaders at the beginning of October expressed the Union’s readiness to set EU-Turkey relations on a positive footing, provided of course that Ankara stops violating the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus, abstains from similar actions that breach International law in the future and ceases all illegal activities vis-à-vis Cyprus and Greece. In those same conclusions, the Council has additionally made it clear that it expects Turkey to support the speedy resumption of negotiations to resolve the Cyprus problem, under the auspices of the UN, and to remain committed to a comprehensive settlement within the UN framework and in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions, and in line with the principles on which the EU is founded.
To date, Turkey’s response unfortunately has been at best disparaging on all fronts towards the EU. The European Council will assess the situation during its meeting on 10th and 11th and take “decisions as appropriate”.
I would like at the this point to publicly thank Slovakia, and Ivan in particular, for the clear positions they have articulated at every occasion, on the need for the EU to act appropriately and effectively when its Member States are facing external threats and challenges.
Moving on, I would like to add that we also touched upon a number of regional issues in our deliberations, including EU Enlargement, Migration, the latest developments in Nagorno-Karabakh, and issues that are of key importance for the direction that the EU will take in the years to come, such as the Conference on the Future of Europe and the latest developments with regard to Multiannual Financial Framework.
Before turning the floor over to you, I wish to thank you once again warmly for taking the time to visit Cyprus in these particularly challenging times, and I look forward to continuing our deliberations over lunch.