Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nikos Christodoulides, following the first quadrilateral Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Greece, Egypt and France
Athens, November 19, 2021
(The Final Communiqué of the Meeting can be found at the end of the statement, below)
It is a great pleasure to be in Athens today, in the context of the first quadripartite meeting of Greece - Cyprus - Egypt - France, four like-minded countries with common goals, common challenges and a common vision for the region.
I would like to warmly thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, my friend Nikos, for the invitation and for the hospitality. Today's meeting demonstrates the strategic orientation of our cooperation, which has been expanded and strengthened at all levels.
All four countries are actively involved in the ongoing energy plan for the Eastern Mediterranean and in this context we had the opportunity today to discuss in detail the emerging synergies, which, as you know, are focused on strategic infrastructure projects such as the underwater pipeline between Cyprus and Egypt, the electricity interconnection of our countries that aims to transport electricity from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe, as well as the common goal of highlighting the prospects of the region as an alternative energy corridor for Europe.
After all, all four countries are founding members of the Cairo Energy Forum, the establishment and operation of which in 2020 was a major development for the wider region and beyond, and shows the way to the realization of our common vision that is based on the strengthening of dialogue and the institutionalizing of regional cooperation with a view to consolidating conditions of peace, security, stability and prosperity.
Today we had the opportunity to exchange views on a wide range of issues related to regional developments. I would like to congratulate my friend the French Foreign Minister on the successful organization of the recent Paris Conference on Libya, during which concrete and binding results were obtained for the participants, such as the simultaneous holding of the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in December and the immediate withdrawal of all foreign military forces, mercenaries and fighters from the country. In addition to the self-evident significance of the return of Libya to normalcy for the whole region - primarily of course for the Libyan people - we are approaching this issue from the geostrategic point of view of the Mediterranean. The exploitation of the absence of popular mandate in Libya, which was incited by a specific country to produce the known illegal memoranda, is still fresh in our memory.
For my part, I also informed my colleagues about the illegal actions of Turkey, both in the fenced area of Famagusta and in the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus, which are manifested within the framework of Ankara's revisionist and destabilization policy in the wider region. On this issue, I also mentioned the importance of discussions of the EU's stategic autonomy, in relation to the ongoing cooperation between the countries of the region and France.
In addition, today we had the opportunity to discuss a number of issues pertaining to the Middle East, the Gulf region and Africa, such as the situation in Syria, Lebanon and the Sahel. As a Member State of the European Union that is in close proximity to the region, Cyprus is closely following all developments, as the importance of the Middle East and the Gulf for regional and European security is clear. Despite the promising signs from the recent agreements on normalization of relations between the States of the region, which are undoubtedly a positive development, there are crises in the region that increase uncertainty and demand joint action to avoid a chain reaction.
We also exchanged views on migration, a major issue in the wider region and in Europe, which we are all concerned about. As you may know, Cyprus, due to its special circumstances as a semi-occupied State that is also an island, is for the fifth consecutive year the Member State of the European Union that receives the largest number of asylum applications in proportion to its population, with the percentage of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection having reached 4% of the population, much higher than the corresponding fugure in any of the other EU Member States, with the exception of Greece.
I would like to take this opportunity to publicly commend Egypt for the responsible way in which it handles the enormous pressures from migration flows, in contrast to other countries in the region that regularly choose to instrumentalize human suffering in order to obtain political and other benefits or advantages in return.
With regard to EU-Egypt relations, I reiterated today the importance of their strategic character. We have exchanged views on how these relations can proceed in the future, for the clear benefit of both Egypt and the EU, especially in view of the forthcoming French Presidency of the European Council. I reiterated the fact that Cyprus, as a friendly country to Egypt, remains committed to the substantial development of EU-Egypt relations.
Finally, regarding the Cyprus problem, I briefed my colleagues on the latest developments. I thanked them for their firm support, while stressing the need for the international community as a whole to send the necessary messages to the Turkish side as to the need for an immediate resumption of negotiations on the basis of the agreed framework. France's role in this effort - as the only EU Member that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, as well as Egypt within the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League - is particularly important, and I would like to express to my dear colleagues, our sincere appreciation and gratitude for that.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I have stated many times before both the actions we take and the enlarged meetings that we hold, at a regular basis, are not a zero-sum game, nor are they aimed at excluding any country. On the contrary, they are open to all countries wishing, on the basis of a positive approach, to assist in deepening cooperation and, consequently, peace in the region, with full respect for international law, good neighborly relations and respect for independence and territorial integrity of each country. This is evidenced by the growing interest of others in participating. In closing, I would like to welcome the commitment of all colleagues to the continuation and further deepening of our cooperation, which I am sure will be beneficial not only for our own countries, but also for the wider region and the EU.
My friend Nikos, thank you again for the cooperation and for the impeccable hospitality.
Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and France
Athens – November 19th 2021
Photos ©Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic