Strengthening the already inseparable bonds between the two countries, enhancing the roles of both Greece and Cyprus as pillars of security in the turbulent eastern Mediterranean region
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides headed the 1st Greece-Cyprus High Level Cooperation Council meeting that was held on November 10th at the Maximos Mansion. Ministers George Gerapetritis, Nikos Dendias, Kyriakos Pierrakakis, Michalis Chrysochoidis, Theodoros Skylakakis, Yiannis Economou, Dimitris Kairidis, Vassilis Kikilias, Lina Mendoni and Christos Stylianidis participated in the proceedings of this High-Level Council.
The two leaders held a joint press conference after chairing the Council.
Premier Mitsotakis stressed that the meeting strengthened the already inseparable bonds between the two countries, enhancing the roles of both Greece and Cyprus as pillars of security in the turbulent eastern Mediterranean region.
“This companionship is also reflected in the joint communique about the Cyprus issue, which is a national priority,” Premier Mitsotakis said, emphasising the need for a resumption of talks within the framework of the United Nations. “The position calling for two States is completely unacceptable for us. We look forward to the immediate appointment of a new UN envoy,” the Greek Premier underlined, adding that Greece will continue to support the efforts to stop machinations that violate the Resolutions of the UN Security Council. He also noted that the EU must have a role in the negotiations, in accordance with the conclusions of the European Council on June 30th.
The Prime Minister said that Greece will continue efforts for the improvement of Greece’s relations with Türkiye, pointing out that progress in this will also benefit the Cyprus problem. He then noted the progress in terms of economic growth “always with a willingness for reforms” and said that there were many areas where the two sides might exchange knowhow and experience, including in civil protection and shipping.
Referring to developments in the Middle East, Prime Minister Mitsotakis said that both President Christodoulides and himself had raised strong concerns about the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza during the conference in Paris.
“Greece and Cyprus support Israel’s right to defend itself in accordance with International Law and Humanitarian Law. We distinguish between the terrorist organisation Hamas and the Palestinian people and its leadership. Athens and Nicosia are in favour of the immediate release of all hostages without terms. Our priority is to assist with humanitarian pauses and through corridors of assistance to help the civilians in Gaza,” the Greek Premier said.
He also congratulated Cyprus’ President for an initiative to set up sea corridors to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, saying this had been “very carefully studied” and that the Greek Government intends to actively participate so long as several technical difficulties are addressed. “We do not forget that the final solution in the Middle East cannot but be political, sustainable, a solution of two States in accordance with International Law,” he said.
Progress in improving Greek-Turkish relations will also help in the resolution of the Cyprus issue, the Cyprus Head of State said during joint statements with Premier Mitsotakis. President Christodoulides sent a clear message to Ankara, saying that the prospects of a closer relationship between Türkiye and the EU, which both Cyprus and Greece desire, “depends on progress in Greek-Turkish issues and the Cyprus problem”.
Cyprus’ President expressed satisfaction with the results of the first Greece-Cyprus cooperation council and the decisions that were made, while noting that it was now important to monitor their implementation.
President Christodoulides said that relations between Greece and Cyprus are excellent and their cooperation exceptional, but that there was always
room for further improvement. He cited examples of successful collaboration, such as the 112 emergency number and digital reforms, adding that intergovernmental cooperation would help bring about better coordination across the entire spectrum of governmental work, not just in defence and foreign policy.
Commenting on the situation in the Middle East, he said this had a direct impact on Cyprus and Greece, as did instability in the region, adding that “our countries have already proceeded to make contacts and proposed solutions as factors for stability in the region, such as the sea corridor for aid to Gaza.” He also thanked Premier Mitsotakis for Greece’s willingness to contribute to this effort. “Cyprus and Greece are part of the solution and not the problem in the area,” President Christodoulides added.
Greece-Cyprus joint communique
The latest developments concerning the Cyprus problem and the Middle East, along with a series of other issues, were examined during this inaugural Greece-Cyprus High-level Cooperation Council, according to the joint communique issued after its conclusion.
This referred to the discussions held on issues such as energy, defence, migration and asylum, education, health, civil protection, culture and shipping, as well as the situation in Ukraine. The two sides agreed that the second High-level Cooperation Council will be held in Cyprus in 2024.
The joint communique noted their support for establishing high-level cooperation councils as the right framework for further enhancing bilateral cooperation between Greece and Cyprus.
The meeting confirmed that there cannot be a solution to the Cyprus issue without the complete withdrawal of Turkish occupation troops and that any solution must be based on UN Security Council Resolutions. They said they looked forward to the appointment of a new UN envoy for Cyprus to explore the prospects of resuming negotiations for a solution, as well as calling for an active EU role in all stages of the process, in accordance with the European Council conclusions of June 30th 2023.
Regarding energy issues, the meeting reaffirmed the strategic significance of cooperation between Greece and Cyprus in order to ensure adequate supplies and diversification of energy on a regional and European level, but also by linking Europe to the Middle East and Asia via the Eastern Mediterranean. Emphasis was given, among others, to the EuroAsia Interconnector electricity cable, support for the EastMed Pipeline and Greece’s Presidency of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum in early 2024.
In the discussion on developments in the Middle East, both countries unequivocally condemned terrorism and recognised Israel’s right to defend itself within the framework of International Law, especially as regards the protection of civilians. They said that Hamas was a terrorist organisation that does not represent the Palestinian people, who are institutionally represented by the Palestinian Authority. Greece and Cyprus repeated the need for the immediate release of all hostages without terms or conditions while expressing their strong concern over the situation in Gaza and the need for an immediate response to the humanitarian crisis. The meeting also hailed a Cypriot initiative for setting up a sea corridor to transfer humanitarian aid to Gaza’s civilians, as well as Greece’s willingness to contribute.
(Photos: Karagiannis, Rembapis/Eurokinissi.)