Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Nikos Christodoulides, at the end of the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Cyprus, Greece, Israel and the United Arab Emirates
Paphos, 16 April 2021
[Scroll down to the bottom of this page to watch the video of all four Ministers delivering their statements at the Paphos Meeting.]
Ladies and gentlemen,
My dear colleagues, Nicos, Gabi and Anwar,
It is for me both a distinct pleasure and a great honor to welcome you to Cyprus, to my birth-city and hometown of Paphos. A special place to me, made even more special today hosting close friends.
It is no exaggeration to say that your presence, our gathering in this stunning backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea, is of symbolic importance. An extended meeting between like-minded countries of the wider region, following the historic normalization agreements between UAE and Israel, is in and of itself a message.
It signifies the new era our region has entered, driven by a common vision our countries, and other countries of the region share: one of the wider Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, and Gulf as an area of stability, prosperity and peace through close cooperation.
This is a path that countries of the region have paved together step by step over the last few years, and one that we shall continue to walk together. Our meeting exemplifies our commitment to continue fostering a frank dialogue and understanding, and has provided us with an opportunity to discuss and formulate common approaches and messages that we will jointly convey.
The evolving web of regional cooperation that is going from strength to strength in our region is creating a new narrative, one that is cracking the glass ceiling of the prevailing, restrictive narrative of our neighbourhood as a region of turmoil, conflict and crisis.
The new narrative unfolding is one that is radically different, and it is written by like-minded countries, with an exclusively positive agenda that is inclusive, directed against no other country, coming together to promote this vision of cooperation, peace, stability and prosperity.
Regional cooperation is yielding tangible results, in an array of fields, from energy to defence, security, science and innovation, environment and education. The pinnacle of this regional tide of cooperation and synergies is the historic agreements for normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE. We congratulate Israel and the UAE, and other countries involved, for this historic step that is opening a new chapter in our corner of the world.
The destiny of this region cannot be left in the hands of countries outside the region, but rather it must and will be dictated by the countries themselves. As cooperation is further enhanced we see a path to institutionalizing this cooperation in a regional forum for cooperation and security.
Let me be absolutely clear: the path is open for all countries of the region to join us. This is in fact our aspiration. The sole condition is respect of good neighbourly relations, respect to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, and adherence to the basic norms of international law including UNCLOS and peaceful resolution of disputes.
And so our message today, while the region and the world is facing this unprecedented crisis brought about by the pandemic, is that resolving problems can only come about through dialogue, adhering to the rules that keep the international system together, respect for international law and multilateralism.
Interference, aggression and provocation, revisionist policies with an expansionist agenda, sheltering and promoting extremism, acting contrary to international law and the UN Charter must have no place in international relations.
In this framework, with my dear friends Nicos, Gabi and Anwar we discussed extensively the situation in Libya, Syria, Yemen, the JCPO, the situation in Afghanistan, as well as the spillover dynamics from the region of the Middle East to Africa.
We also discussed sectoral cooperation and specific projects we commit to take forward, from energy to cooperation on civil protection, genetics and molecular medicine, education and enhancing people to people contacts.
On energy, we agreed that unlocking the full energy potential of the region by enhancing the sustainable, efficient and environmentally conscious developments of natural gas must be a priority.
Moreover, cooperation on civil protection is rendered all the more important given the pandemic and we discussed specific means of cooperating on the whole spectrum of disaster prevention, mitigation, response and recovery.
The pandemic has also shed light on the vital importance of governments investing in health and science and we are looking at ways to strengthen cooperation of our scientific communities.
It goes without saying that our discussion focused on the crisis created for all of us by the pandemic. I am pleased to note that all countries here have demonstrated in practice their ability to manage the crisis and limit its repercussions on our economies and societies. This is important when we consider tourism, and our discussions addressed ways of reaping the benefits in the coming tourist season given our geographic proximity.
I also had the opportunity to brief my dear colleagues on the latest developments on the Cyprus problem. We go to Geneva at the end of the month, steadfastly committed to resuming negotiations for reunifying Cyprus in a bi-zonal bi-communal federation, fully in line with UNSCRs, international and EU law. We and the international community expect the same of all other actors involved. We all agreed that a reunified Cyprus must be a functional, viable sovereign state, with no foreign interference and anachronistic systems that have no place in the 21st century.
Dearest colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen,
There is a wind of change blowing from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and the Gulf. Cyprus, from prehistoric times to today, embraces its fate as a bridge between the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia and we are determined that our geographical position, our excellent relations with neighouring countries is a blessing. The future of this region is one of cooperation not conflict, it is one of prosperity, peace and stability. We will continue walking this chosen path with like-minded countries and our aspiration is that collaboration will continue to converge, including all countries of the region.
I thank you and I welcome you once again to Paphos.
Photos ©PIO, Stavros Ioannides