Statement to the Press by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nikos Christodoulides, following his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon, Mr. Abdullah Bou Habib
Beirut, 6 October 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the outset I would like to warmly thank Foreign Minister Bou Habib for his kind invitation and warm hospitality in Beirut, a city that I personally, like many other Cypriots, hold very close to our hearts, as it makes us feel at home, not least due to the unmatched ability of our dear Lebanese friends to make one feel truly welcome.
This affinity between our peoples was evident by the truly universal and heart-warming rush of the Cypriot people to provide assistance to our Lebanese brothers after the destructive Beirut blast last summer and is a clear indicator that our relation with Lebanon is one we cherish and we should extend every effort to further enhance.
Dear friend, from this position, I wish to welcome the formation of a new Government in Lebanon.
For Cyprus, the sovereignty, stability, territorial integrity and unity of Lebanon is undisputed and I have expressed our readiness to support these principles in any way possible. This is a message that we stress to our interlocutors internationally at every instance when the situation in Lebanon is raised.
I do realize that Lebanon stands at a critical crossroads and the new government has to face substantial challenges. The issue of the economy is extremely pressing and it is paramount that the necessary actions and reforms be taken swiftly, in order for the international community to be able to unlock the aid it has pledged to Lebanon in the past.
However, it is critical that the ownership of the solution must be Lebanese, and no amount of foreign support can or should substitute the actions of the Government, in close cooperation with the country’s vibrant civil society.
In our very productive meeting with Minister Bou Habib, we had the opportunity to review the full scope of our bilateral relations. Whereas it is a common conclusion that these are on a very good level and cover many sectors, both sides are committed to exploring ways of deepening our cooperation in the existing fields and expanding it into new ones, to our mutual benefit.
I am sure, dear colleague, that we have set today the foundation for the frequent and frank communication, as is essential between good friends and neighbors.
My presence here today, as the first EU Foreign Minister to visit Lebanon after the formation of the new Government, proves the strong bonds of friendship and solidarity between our two countries and Cyprus’ sincere interest in seeing Lebanon overcoming its current difficulties and prospering.
Before my meeting with my counterpart, I have had the opportunity to visit the two hospitals to whose reconstruction Cyprus has contributed after the Beirut blast. As I have mentioned to the Minister, the grit and tenacity I have witnessed, even in the face of adversity, further fuels our determination to continue standing shoulder to shoulder with the country and its people and helping in any way that we can.
As countries sharing similar concerns, emanating from our troubled neighborhood, we have had the chance to have a frank exchange on the latest developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and the wider Middle East, particularly Syria and the recent initiative of countries in the region to transfer natural gas and electricity to Lebanon, thus alleviating the country’s severe energy crisis.
I have also stressed to Minister Bou Habib our readiness to develop our trilateral cooperation with Greece even more. What we are aspiring, is to establish a results-oriented forum that will have a positive impact on the lives of our citizens and particularly of the new generation, and to offer an example of respect and cooperation in a region, where this is not often the norm.
I have reiterated our willingness to accommodate Lebanon in choosing sectors of cooperation that would better reflect its current needs and concerns, and that we are keen as ever on hosting the first Trilateral Summit at the level of Heads of State in Nicosia, as soon as the necessary preparatory work is concluded.
Allow me to thank you once again for your warm welcome, which I hope to be able to reciprocate soon in Cyprus.