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02-12-2020 13:32

Interview by the Minister of Defence, Mr Charalambos Petrides, to Al Arabiya news channel

The Minister of Defence, Mr Charalambos Petrides, yesterday, Tuesday 1 December 2020, gave an interview to Al Arabiya news channel, as follows:

Exercise Medusa

The Exercise Medusa started in 2017 as an outcome of the trilateral defence cooperation between Cyprus, Greece and Egypt. We consider it as a very important Exercise as it is a large scale, joint exercise with the participation of a large number of naval and air assets.

It is especially important for building up interoperability and cooperation between our countries for promoting stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As said, the focus of the Exercise was to exercise with Egyptian and Greek Forces. This year, for the first time, we are extremely grateful to have the United Arab Emirates and France joining this Exercise. We welcome their participation and we are sure that both countries will contribute immensely to the goals of the Exercise.

Having both the UAE and France actively participating in Medusa, is mutually beneficial and is a real added value to the operational objectives of the Exercise.  We are grateful for this and we hope that we will be able to do more collaborations and joint exercises with the UAE in the Eastern Mediterranean.

With the addition of the UAE and of France, Exercise Medusa is becoming even more important and significant for the region’s stability and cooperation. We very much welcome the participation from the UAE, a country that we consider as a critical actor in the international and regional scene, promoting the values of cooperation and understanding. The UAE’s interest for the stability in the Eastern Mediterranean is hugely important to us and to other partner countries in the region, including Greece, Egypt and, very recently, Israel.

 

What is the message that is given through these drills?

Exercising together, despite the difficulties posed by the global pandemic, is extremely important as we can demonstrate our willingness for working towards the goal of peace and stability as well as for countering threats and acts of provocation and aggression.

 

CY-UAE Bilateral Cooperation

Cyprus is the closest EU member state to Gulf countries. Hence, our role as bridge between the Gulf and the EU is very important and cardinal to our foreign and defence policy.

Cyprus and the UAE are both maritime nations hence have a shared understanding about our role for securing maritime trade routes, trade etc. I should also note that, since 2017, UAE’s DP World has been given the exclusive responsibility for managing and running our biggest Port in Limassol.

We live in an era were threats are transnational. We need to work closely together for addressing shared threats and challenges such as terrorism, radicalization, illicit trafficking of weapons etc.

We are fortunate enough to have cultivated strong bonds of cooperation and friendship with the UAE. Most recently at the joint ministerial committee at the level of Foreign Ministers, our two countries agreed a renewed and ambitious programme of bilateral cooperation in many areas such as trade, investments, culture, maritime, higher education and of course defence and security cooperation.

Recently, a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to discuss the very positive prospects of our defence cooperation at a telephone conversation I had with my counterpart, His Excellency Mohammed Al Bawardi with whom we had a very cordial exchange of views.

We both agreed to work towards the enhancement of our bilateral defence cooperation and I have extended an invitation to His Excellency for visiting Cyprus in the near future for continuing our discussions. We will focus our work, over the coming months, in establishing solid and robust premises for our future work and cooperation in the area of defence and security and for creating a structured programme of bilateral defence cooperation.

Certainly, we welcome the keen interest showed by the UAE for developments in the Eastern Mediterranean. The active role and presence of UAE, including the historic Abrahams Accords with Israel, are proof of the UAE’s solid interest for peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

The prospects for cooperation both on a bilateral and on a trilateral basis are enormous. The various trilateral cooperation formats in the Eastern Mediterranean, in which Cyprus and Greece are part, could also serve as an additional element for engaging with the UAE.

 

Trilateral Formats

The EastMed should be considered as a sub system of regional security. It encompasses many threats from climate change, to energy security, illegal migration, trafficking of weapons. In addition, we also have hostile and aggressive actions from one particular country towards the rest of our countries.

Cooperation and consultation is key for managing threats and provocations. Over recent years Cyprus and Greece have developed respective trilateral cooperation formats with Egypt, Israel, Jordan from the levels of Head of State to Foreign and Defence Ministers.

This cooperation has been truly ground-breaking and enabling for regional cooperation in many areas. We are glad to see that this model of cooperation seems interesting and appealing to other countries that now wish to be part of our activities.

 

Turkey’s provocative behaviour and illegal actions

For Cyprus, the situation is clear, regarding the escalating tensions with Turkey. At a time when Cyprus with other neighbouring and friendly countries are trying to promote a new regional framework for cooperation of bilateral and trilateral partnerships, as well as are strengthening and increasing cooperation with Mediterranean EU powers, and other neighbouring states, Turkey is the only state in the region that chooses provocations, escalations, threats and disinformation as a basis for its foreign policy.

Another example of cooperation is the recent signing of the EastMed Gas Forum charter, where a modern, open and inclusive platform for regional cooperation has been established. We welcome every country of the region that respects International Law to join the Forum, since this framework for cooperation is inclusive and open to any state with a positive agenda. Unfortunately, Turkey excludes itself from it, adopting a completely irrelevant revisionist approach, expansionist behaviour and highly aggressive rhetoric towards anyone opposing its illegal plans.

Cyprus has no option but to continue to cooperate with all those who embrace common European principles and values and international law. In this respect we call on Turkey to accept Cyprus’ invitation to engage in negotiations, in good faith and in full respect of international law, with the objective of reaching agreement on the maritime delimitation between their relevant coasts, or to submit the issue to the International Court of Justice.

 

Varosha

The latest provocation by Turkey was the decision to proceed with the “opening” of part of the fenced-off area of Varosha, violating the status quo in the Cyprus occupied area, as set out in relevant UN Security Council Resolutions [550 (1984) and 789 (1992)].

Mr. Erdogan visited the beach front of the fenced-off area of Varosha, and could not be more vocal. Irrespective of what the EU and indeed the Security Council of the UN has stated, he intends to open the fenced-off area of Varosha, in a manner contrary to what the relevant SC Resolutions prescribe, i.e. transfer of the administration of the area to the UN so as for the lawful owners and legal inhabitants to return to their homes, in anticipation of an overall settlement of the Cyprus problem. In the wider context, he was equally clear that Turkey is aiming at imposing the permanent division of Cyprus, through a two-state solution. This position is in absolute contradiction to the agreed basis of a bizonal bicommunal federation that is provided for in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and a solution in line with EU law, values and principles that that the EU is striving at.

EH