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31-01-2020 13:38

Statement to the Press by the Minister of Foreign Affairs following his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lebanon

As always, I am happy to be back in Beirut, where I feel amongst friends and very much at home. Not just because of the geographical proximity with Cyprus – it’s only a twenty-minute flight from Larnaca to Beirut - but also because of the cultural and historical affinity between our peoples, which goes back thousands of years in history. I would like to thank Mr Hitti for the warm reception and hospitality afforded to me and the members of my delegation. I feel particularly privileged to be the first foreign dignitary to visit Beirut after the formation of the new Government. 

I wish to express in public my sincere appreciation for the very positive and open deliberations we have had, surely the first of many to come. Cyprus being one of Lebanon’s closest neighbors and partners, I was eager to visit Beirut as soon as possible after the formation of the new Government, in order to meet the Minister and to reaffirm with him our joint commitment to further advance the traditionally excellent relations and cooperation between Cyprus and Lebanon. Based on our discussions this morning, dear Nassif, I am convinced that the future of our bilateral relations is indeed very promising, contributing positively to the enhancement of stability, cooperation, security and peace in our region.   

I would like to use this opportunity to welcome the formation of a Government in Lebanon, at a time when the country is at a critical crossroad, faced with a number of challenges. I was pleased to hear from the Minister that the Government is determined to move rapidly forward with the necessary reforms, living up to the aspirations and expectations of the Lebanese people. Cyprus will always be a strong supporter of Lebanon’s stability, sovereignty, security and prosperity. My presence here today, less than a year after my previous visit, serves as proof of our sincere interest and unwavering willingness to continue to support, and work together with Lebanon, in every way possible.

This morning we had the opportunity to review the full spectrum of our flourishing bilateral relations, discussing concrete ways of enhancing existing cooperation and expanding it to new fields, for the mutual benefit of our peoples and our region in general. 

Within this context, cooperation in the field of energy between Cyprus and Lebanon is of particular importance. The geographical proximity of our countries, our  joint commitment to international law and the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea to which both Cyprus and Lebanon are Parties, the Agreement on the Delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone, signed between Cyprus and Lebanon, and the fact that some of the biggest energy companies of the world are operating in both the maritime zones of Lebanon and Cyprus, provide for a solid basis for enhancing our cooperation in the energy sector by creating synergies for the benefit of our countries and peoples.  

In our part of the world, which is no stranger to turbulence and uncertainty, the rapid developments of the last few weeks have once more brought home the message of how necessary dialogue, cooperation and a positive agenda are, all the more in times like these. We had a frank and open discussion with Nassif on the latest regional developments, drawing on his considerable experience in the politics and balances in the region, and I wish to thank him for the insights he has shared with me. 

During my last visit to Beirut, we held the first trilateral meeting with Lebanon and Greece, at the level of Foreign Ministers. Today, I am very pleased to announce that we have started preparations for the first Trilateral Summit at the level of Heads of State / Government, to be held in Nicosia in the spring of this year, demonstrating our determination to continue to build on the path of respect and cooperation with our neighbours, in a region where this is often not the norm. Our vision is that mini-lateral cooperation mechanisms such as this one will lay the ground for the establishment of a result-oriented regional platform, that will in turn have a tangible and positive impact on the lives of our citizens and will eventually allow all countries of our region to work together to tackle challenges and utilize the untapped potential.

Lastly, I wish to take this opportunity to briefly refer to EU-Lebanon relations. Allow me to reiterate that the EU is determined to continue working towards the further enhancement and strengthening of these ties, to our common benefit.  I wish to emphasize that Cyprus will continue, also within the EU, to be a strong advocate for Lebanon, and its people. 

A defining trait shared by the people of Cyprus and Lebanon, is our resilience in the face of adversity. I am sure that this will prove to be true in this case too, for both our countries and we shall overcome the challenges we currently face.

Allow me to thank you once again for your warm welcome, which I hope to be able to reciprocate soon.