Information on some of the most central themes of Cyprus foreign policy can be found by perusing the tabs below.
After the 1974 Turkish invasion, many monuments, churches and archaeological sites in the occupied areas were pillaged. Religious symbols, mosaics, and other cultural treasures have been stolen and sold abroad by smugglers of antiquities.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been actively engaged for decades in efforts to locate and recover the valuable artifacts. It has also contributed substantially in reaching a successful outcome in the landmark dispute that took place in the USA for the repatriation of the mosaics from the Panayias Kanakarias church (1991) and, since then, in several other cases.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has undertaken numerous initiatives and developed partnerships in recent years, in order to promote the protection of cultural heritage all over the world, utilising and bringing into play the experience accrued by the the Republic's authorities in dealing with the consequences of the Turkish illegal occupation.
The crowning achievements of these efforts are:
(a) the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of the first ever resolution on human rights and the protection of the cultural heritage in September 2016 and its subsequent renewal in March 2018, and
(b) the opening for signature of the Council of Europe Convention on Offences Relating to Cultural Property (also known as «the Nicosia Convention»), in May 2017, during the Cyprus Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.
The Republic of Cyprus has established mechanisms and partnerships in order to implement the vision of transforming the Eastern Mediterranean region into a model of cooperation and development by means of Energy Diplomacy, which is closely linked to Maritime Policy, acknowledging from the outset the dynamics of the energy sector as a tool for enhancing the welfare of all its citizens and acting as a catalyst to build stability, security, and peace in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
A pioneering institutional framework has been established for the Eastern Mediterranean region, that guides the energy policy of the Republic of Cyprus, commencing by declaring the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in 2004 (determined from the outer limit of the Cyprus coastal baseline and extending to the neighboring States') and signing EEZ delimitation agreements with Egypt (2003), Lebanon (2007) and Israel (2010). In doing so, the necessary legal certainty has been provided to potential investors, as attested by the active involvement of energy giants in the Cyprus EEZ.
Adhering consistently to International Law, the Republic of Cyprus ensures that its sovereignty and its jurisdiction are exercised and its sovereign rights are secured within its maritime areas (territorial sea, contiguous zone, EEZ, and continental shelf). In this context, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs promotes or supports actions, aimed at deepening cooperation with other States, mainly the Eastern Mediterranean countries, in the sector of energy (exploiting joint hydrocarbon fields, transportation pipelines of hydrocarbons, submarine cables, etc.) and the protection of the maritime environment, fishing and marine antiquities, by concluding transnational or further bilateral or trilateral agreements, while the Ministry takes the lead and is engaged in all the related regional initiatives.
Furthermore, the Republic of Cyprus plays an active part in the energy-related processes of the European Union, as a Member State, while in its regional action it projects European principles, values, and policies in its relations with third countries in the region. Moreover, a core pillar of the Energy Diplomacy and Marine Policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the development of partnerships contributing to the full utilization of the energy prospects of the Eastern Mediterranean, also as an alternative source of energy for the European Union, whilst highlighting in international and European fora Cyprus’s role in promoting respect of the Law of the Sea and the protection of the marine environment.
The advancement of European integration and the expansion of the European agenda have made the adoption of a holistic approach to European affairs necessary. Cyprus needed to have a unified approach through a comprehensive national strategy when it comes to European affairs. An approach that ensures that the Republic of Cyprus is a credible partner within the EU, whilst enhancing efforts to optimize the benefits from Cyprus’s membership of the European Union.
Acknowledging this and aiming to optimize the benefits from EU membership whilst harnessing at the same time the experience acquired during Cyprus’s first Presidency of the Council of the EU Council in 2012, the Council of Ministers decided in 2019 to set up the General Secretariat for European Affairs, which has a coordinating role when it comes to EU affairs.
The core responsibilities of the General Secretariat for European Affairs include formulating an integrated national strategy on European issues, and ensuring its implementation, coordinating the formulation of national positions on EU matters, in close cooperation with the competent Ministries/Government departments (EU affairs Units) and the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Cyprus in the EU. Moreover, the General Secretariat provides the Presidency of the Republic with information and support on European issues, primarily in relation to the preparation of the formal and informal meetings of the European Council.
The General Secretariat is also responsible for coordinating the effective implementation of EU Law, as well as for transposing EU Directives to national legislation. Furthermore, it looks after relations with EU institutions, whilst at the same time supporting the Ministerial Committee for European Affairs (under the Minister of Foreign Affairs), established by the aforementioned 2019 Decision. The Committee decides upon issues of strategy and examines important horizontal policy affairs, focusing mainly on reconciling views in order to establish national positions on cross-sectoral matters.
The General Secretariat is based in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and draws its staff from various Government departments as well as from European Institutions.
A dedicated Unit for gender mainstreaming in the foreign policy of Cyprus has been set up in the Ministry, in the context of our ongoing reform and restructuring, in an effort to adopt «thematic pluralism», with gender equality becoming a fundamental goal of the Republic of Cyprus foreign policy.
Ensuring that the fundamental rights of women and girls are respected is a key part of our foreign policy. We aspires to become an agent for change in international efforts to promote the rights of women and girls worldwide, in the European context and at the regional level.
Towards this end, the Ministry has drawn up an Action Plan for Gender Mainstreaming in Foreign Policy in order to achieve this goal. Five aims are defined in the Action Plan through which targeted actions and initiatives are carried out at the regional level, in the European Union framework, and beyond, with the view to strengthening international efforts to combat inequalities and enhancing the drive towards gender equality.
These goals may be summed up as follows:
The protection and the respect of human rights is the core tenet of the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus and an integral part of its European identity. Therefore, ensuring and promoting the respect of human rights is a central axiom of Cyprus’s foreign policy.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has, in this context, ratified the most important international Conventions for the protection of all human rights. It promotes the accession to new international Conventions and the application of the obligations assumed by the Republic of Cyprus after consultation and in coordination with the competent authorities of the State. Furthermore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs plays a coordinating role in preparing the hearing procedure for Cyprus before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, in the context of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in respect of the situation of human rights in our country, which is carried out every four years.
Cyprus, as a UN active member and in the context of multilateral diplomacy, participates actively in the works of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural Issues) and also in the Regular Sessions of the UN Human Rights Council, which take place in Geneva three times a year. Cyprus adopts a constructive position during the negotiations among the EU Member States to achieve an EU common position in respect of the various Resolutions but also to formulate EU Joint Statements.
In the EU context, the Republic of Cyprus supports the promotion, integration, and inclusion of human rights in the Union's political actions.
The Republic of Cyprus has set as a priority to take initiatives on several issues including gender equality, dealing with climate change, the respect of cultural rights and cultural heritage, the protection of the fundamental rights and the human dignity of the most vulnerable persons (i.e. persons with special needs, LGBTI, etc), taking into account the need to address current world challenges. It also provides financial assistance for the promotion of these goals through voluntary contributions.
Multilateral diplomacy is an important foreign policy tool for the Republic of Cyprus. Modern-day challenges make it imperative to enhance multilateral cooperation at international and regional levels. Therefore, Cyprus pursues the maintenance of an active presence in all international organizations, as well as at multilateral fora. Information regarding the participation of Cyprus in some of the most important organizations is provided below:
United Nations Organization
Cyprus is a member of the UN since September 1960 and it remains staunchly committed to respecting the values and principles of the Organization. It advocates the UN’s mission as the guardian of international legal order and is actively participating in the Organizations multifaceted work. Aspiring to further enhance its contribution, Cyprus has submitted its candidacies for the Presidency of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for 2026-2027, as well as for a non-permanent seat at the Security Council for the period 2035-2036.
The key parameters of the active participation of the Republic of Cyprus in the UN can be summed up in respect of human rights, the implementation of International Law provisions, and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Moreover, the Republic of Cyprus supports the UN Secretary General's efforts for reform, aiming at enhancing the Organization's efficiency, mainly with a view to conducting preventive diplomacy.
Council of Europe
The Republic of Cyprus is a member of the Council of Europe since May 1961. It is a contracting party to numerous Conventions of the Organization and an active Member within it its framework. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), according to which the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) based in Strasbourg was established, is rightly considered the jewel in the Council’s crown. The ECtHR is the first international judicial system for the protection of human rights, with a power to examine cases brought before it by States or individuals.
The role of the ECtHR is of key importance for the defense of the Republic of Cyprus against the consequences of the Turkish invasion and occupation, as many of the judgments issued by this Court on applications brought by the States and individuals against Turkey have establish the ongoing infringement by Turkey of the European Convention in relation to the rights of displaced persons, missing persons, the enclaved as well as others, and have declared unequivocally Turkey's legal responsibility for all these violations.
The Republic of Cyprus has to date five times chaired the Committee of Ministers of the Council. which is responsible inter alia for monitoring the enforcement of Strasbourg Court’s decisions. The latest of these was in 2016-2017 and during this time the Convention of the Council of Europe on Offences relation to Cultural Property (also known as the Nicosia Convention) was concluded and opened for signature.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
The Republic of Cyprus is a founding member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is the evolution of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), established with the adoption of the Helsinki Final Act (1975). The mission of the OSCE is governed by the principle of comprehensive Eurasian security and is founded on three guiding principles related to the political, military, human, economic, and environmental aspects of security. Cyprus being a Mediterranean State, attaches particular importance to the strengthening of cooperation between the Organization and the Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation.
The Republic of Cyprus supports the work of the International Criminal Court and it is very active in the context of the Conference of the States Parties to the Rome Statute (1998). Cyprus has served inter alia as the contact point for the promotion of the Universality and the Full Application of the Rome Statute for the period 2013-2016 and supports through voluntary contributions the Trust Fund of the Court for Victims. The role of the ICC is pivotal in the fight against impunity of the perpetrators for international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
The role of the Hague International Court, which is the principal judicial organ of the UN to peacefully settle disputes between States, is particularly significant. The Republic of Cyprus is among the 74 States that have recognized the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court. Cyprus is also a Member State to the Permanent Court of Arbitration and participates in the works of the Administrative Council of the Court.
The Republic of Cyprus is an Associate Member State of the International Organization of La Francophonie from 2006 and since then it is actively participating in the Organization’s political institutions to promote the French language and the common values of solidarity, democracy, rule of law, respect of human rights, equality, peace and security, sustainable development, protection of cultural heritage and cultural and linguistic diversity.
Defence and Security Policy is another important part of the Republic of Cyprus foreign policy. Within its context, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs acts in a policy-making and coordinating capacity at national level. In doing so, it maintains a horizontal and multi-dimensional role, given that beyond collaboration with transnational agencies, it needs to work closely on defence and security matters with all competent State institutions, including of course first and foremost the Ministry of Defence as well as the Ministry of Justice and Public Order.
Through membership in international organizations that promote global security, the Republic of Cyprus participates in and supports international initiatives aimed at combating, inter alia, illegal trafficking of weapons, terrorism, and the proliferation and deployment of weapons of mass destruction. The Republic of Cyprus applies all relevant rules and follows recommendations prescribed by international conventions, against the illegal transport of materials and dual-use technology, despite the fact that Turkey regularly and abusively raises a veto and is impeding the participation of the Republic of Cyprus in international-related initiatives and systems to this end.
In addition, the Republic of Cyprus is facilitating in various ways the UN’s peacekeeping missions operating from Cyprus, such as UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), by providing human resources and facilities.
The EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), is of major importance in defending the interests of the Republic of Cyprus. Cyprus therefore supports and actively participates in efforts aimed at substantially deepening the CSDP, convinced that the Union’s capability development is hugely significant, as in the case of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in Security and Defence and of the European Defence Fund (EDF). Cyprus also supports the ambitious goal for the EU to achieve strategic autonomy.
The Republic of Cyprus also contributes to the EU’s military and non-military missions and is actively involved in the decision-making process of the EU Security and Defence-related mechanisms.
At the bilateral level, the Republic of Cyprus cooperates closely with all like-minded countries in the region to strengthen the security architecture in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, contributing in this manner in consolidating peace and stability. In addition, the Republic of Cyprus maintains close cooperation on defence and security matters with like-minded countries beyond the region.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains close cooperation with competent Government departments and other stakeholders in order to ensure that Cyprus complies with its international and European commitments relating to sustainable development.
Implementing the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015 to tackle climate change, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, constitute priorities for the Republic of Cyprus. The 2030 Agenda comprises 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) underpinned by 169 targets, setting efforts to consolidate sustainable development worldwide on a new dimension.
The sustainable development-related action of the EU is set out in the Discussion Paper Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030. The Republic of Cyprus and the other EU Member States are committed, inter alia, to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions by 40%, to increasing the share of energy used from Renewable Sources of Energy (RSE), and to improving energy efficiency by 2030, in accordance with the Policy framework on climate and energy from 2020 to 2030. Furthermore, policies leading to the progressive decarbonizing of the economy are adopted in the context of the Energy Union.
In 2019 the Council of Ministers decided to draw up Support Plans, in association with all national competent institutions, envisaging actions with a total budget worth EUR 22 million for the period 2020-2022, which will help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Deepening and expanding relations with all countries of the Middle East and the Gulf is a core pillar of Cyprus’s foreign policy.
In this context, the trilateral cooperation mechanisms that have been established jointly with Greece since 2014, are at the heart of Cyprus’s initiatives in the region and constitute a model of regional cooperation.
The main goal is to contribute positively to efforts to address regional challenges collectively, as well as to promoting peace, stability and prosperity.
So far, trilateral cooperation mechanisms with Egypt, Israel, and Jordan have been established at all levels, including at the Head of State and Government level. At the same time, trilateral meetings between Ministers of Foreign Affairs have taken place with Palestine and Lebanon in order to discuss and define issues of common interest.
The trilateral cooperation relations focus on a wide range of sectors inter alia, Energy, Tourism, Diaspora, Environment, Innovation and Research, Investments, Small & Middle Enterprises (SMEs) and Startups, Education, the protection of Cultural Heritage, etc. Engagement of institutions like universities and the private sector is also of importance. This is a constantly evolving and flexible process, which is open to all countries of the region and provides new opportunities and possibilities for expansion and growth.
A series of actions to set up a Permanent Secretariat that will monitor and provide support to the Trilateral Cooperation Mechanisms, based in Cyprus, are in progress, with a view to strengthening the cooperation and coordination among partners involved, and facilitating the achievement of tangible results.
The Republic of Cyprus has established a National Coordination Mechanism to ensure better coordination among all the institutions involved in the process of formulating proposals and implementing decisions.
Economic Diplomacy refers to the Government’s efforts to strengthen Cyprus’ economic position in the world, contributing thus towards the creation of growth and jobs. In the current challenging global conditions, where protectionist tendencies and economic nationalism are on the rise and world trade and open markets and being questioned, it has become more difficult for businesses to engage in trade and invest abroad, ultimately affecting growth and prosperity.
In this context, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has undertaken a leading role in defining an Economic Diplomacy Strategy for Cyprus for the period 2021-2013, in close cooperation with a range of actors from the public and private sector and the civil society, aiming to effectively use its diplomatic network in reinforcing Cyprus’ position in the global market. The Strategy sets clear objectives which will be pursued through a wide spectrum of economic tools at bilateral, regional and multilateral level.
In parallel, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is promoting the necessary institutional framework and coordination mechanism, in order to ensure effective implementation of the Strategy through a participative, consensus-driven, transparent and accountable approach.
Sanctions, or restrictive measures, are a diplomatic tool which act as a lever of pressure, seeking to bring about a change and/or limit activities or policies, such as violations of international law, human rights or policies that do not respect the rule of law or democratic principles. They are a preventative and non-punitive instrument within the framework of foreign policy which act as a timely response to negative political changes and developments, also sending a strong political message.
Measures, such as arms embargoes and other trade transactions (import/export restrictions), financial restrictions (asset freezes), as well as restrictions on admission (visa or travel bans) are some of the measures most commonly used to achieve the aims stated above, depending on the case.
As a general rule, such measures target third-country governments or non-State entities and individuals. They aim to focus much as possible on those who are responsible for the policies or actions deemed unacceptable, in order to minimize the negative impact on the local population, as well as on the legal activities of the targeted country.
Both the enactment and the implementation of sanctions must always be in accordance with international law and must respect human rights, fundamental freedoms, and in particular, legal procedures and the right to an effective remedy.
The Republic of Cyprus, as a member of the United Nations (UN) and a Member State of the European Union (EU) has a duty to implement:
— Sanctions adopted by the relevant Security Council Resolution pursuant to Article 41 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, which have direct and immediate application in the Republic of Cyprus, in accordance with the Law 58(I) of 2016 which provides for the Implementation of the Provisions of the Resolutions or Decisions of the United Nations Security Council (Sanctions) and the Decisions and Regulations of the Council of the European Union (Restrictive Measures). In addition, the EU, and consequently the Republic of Cyprus, implement UN sanctions by incorporating them into EU law, through the adoption of relevant Decisions and Regulations within the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (hereafter CFSP)
— Restrictive measures adopted by the Council of the European Union, through the issuance of relevant Decisions (under Article 29 of the Treaty on European Union) and Regulations (under Article 215 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU), within the framework of the CFSP, which supersede national law. They are binding legal acts in their entirety for EU Member States and their citizens, requiring direct and immediate application to the integral legal order of EU Member States.
— Any other European legislation or legally binding international instrument related to sanctions.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is involved in the decision-making process regarding the enforcement of restrictive measures at EU level, but not regarding sanctions within the framework of the UN Security Council. During the procedure for adopting EU restrictive measures, the MFA requests, where possible, the opinion and suggestions of the competent services and authorities of the Republic, in order to formulate a national position.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not have the competence to give approvals, permits and/or official opinions and advice on issues regarding the application of sanctions, nor can it interpret the relevant provisions of UN Resolutions and EU Decisions and Regulations. According to Law 58(I) of 2016 which provides for the Implementation of the Provisions of the Resolutions or Decisions of the United Nations Security Council (Sanctions) and the Decisions and Regulations of the Council of the European Union (Restrictive Measures), the relevant authorities consist of each Ministry or its Department, each Independent Service, as well as the Supervisory Authorities, in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, the Law, the regulatory administrative acts and decisions of the executive power.
EU restrictive measures and UN Security Council sanctions, which the EU incorporates into the European legal order via Decisions and Regulations, are, in their entirety, binding and part of EU law and their direct application to the internal legal order of the EU covers:
In accordance with the relevant Law, it is the obligation and responsibility of all Services and Authorities of the Republic, as well as of the interested companies and individuals, to be informed and to implement UN Resolutions/Decisions concerning sanctions and Decisions and Regulations of the Council of the EU relating to restrictive measures.
Those intending to operate in a country subject to restrictive measures are advised to contact their respective services and authorities for more information and/or to contact the legal department for advice.
For timely, valid and immediate updates on current EU measures and UN sanctions, you can consult the following sites:
[For EU restrictive measures]
EU Sanctions Map
Consolidated List of Sanctions
European Union External Action Service
Council of the European Union
[For UN sanctions]