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02-07-2021 14:54

Statement to the Press by the Minister of Interior of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Nicos Nouris, following his deliberations with the Interior Minister of Serbia Mr. Aleksandar Vulin

It is a great pleasure to be visiting Serbia and to be meeting with my good colleague Aleksandar. I wish to express my gratitude for your invitation to visit Belgrade.

As you are all aware, politically, Cyprus stands by Serbia, and today’s discussions reaffirm the brotherhood between our countries, which is founded on the strong, traditional bonds of friendship.

The deliberations were productive and results-oriented, and on these we will build on, to give flesh and bones to our joint commitment to further strengthen ties between Cyprus and Serbia, in the fields of our competence.

With Aleksandar, we had the opportunity to follow up on a number of issues that fall within the competence of our ministries, and we adamantly believe that the time has come to inject new momentum to our relations for an even more substantive relationship.

A first step in this direction is the signing today of an agreement on cooperation in the field of protection against disasters between our Ministries. This agreement is essential as it is considered to be a concrete step in creating additional opportunities to the benefit of our countries and our people in this area.  

Specifically, the areas of cooperation include, among others:

(a) assistance in the event of disasters and performance of protection and rescue activities, as well as mitigating and eliminating their consequences;

(b) the exchange of scientific and technical knowledge as well as the transfer of expertise and experience in protection against disasters;

(c) education and training of personnel who participate in protection and rescue activities, as well as rescue equipment;

With the Minister we also had the opportunity to follow up on a number of other issues during our talks that are part of the bilateral framework of our relations, including the challenges that Cyprus is currently facing regarding irregular migration.  

Dear, friends, over the recent years Cyprus has been experiencing an ongoing, systematic influx of irregular arrivals, with more than 70% of asylum applicants arriving from Turkey and through the areas which are not under the effective control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, and I am referring to the occupied part of Cyprus. During the first 5 months of 2021, around 4.000 people have crossed illegally the green line and applied for asylum, with the majority of them being Syrian nationals.

This is why we are persistently as a country asking the EU to develop and implement a legally robust operation dedicated to the prevention of irregular migratory flows from Turkey before they reach Cyprus equivalently to the arrangement for Greece that is been included in the EU – Turkey Statement of 2016.

Additionally, taking into account the situation as it stands, it is clear that we need to focus on returns as one of the main tools that will allow us to manage migrants who do not have any legal right to remain in the Republic of Cyprus- and of course in other member states. This is the reason why it has been our firm position as member state, during all the negotiations with the other member states of the EU regarding the new European policy for Asylum, that a central return mechanism should be established and coordinated by the Commission. I was happy to hear that the Serbian Government also stands by our side on this plea that we have in the EU.

 Concluding, dear Minister, dear friend, I wish to express my gratitude once again for your invitation and for the productive and result-oriented deliberations we had today, and of course, the signing of the agreement. I would also like to extend an open invitation to visit Cyprus.