Statement to the Press by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Nikos Christodoulides, following deliberations with the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Dr. Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf
It gives me great pleasure to welcome to Cyprus the Secretary General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, my friend, Dr. Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf. Excellency, your visit has been long overdue and I am delighted to receive and host you and your delegation. Your visit comes in continuation of our fruitful discussion in New York, following our first meeting in Riyadh in January 2021.
At the outset, I wish to emphasise that the visit of Your Excellency is highly significant as it reflects our joint political will and commitment — evident also by Cyprus’ extensive diplomatic network in the Gulf region — of Cyprus and the GCC to further enhance our strong ties and relations in concrete ways, for the benefit of the peoples, of our countries, and of our region as a whole.
A testament to this, is that we are at the very final stages of concluding a Memorandum of Understanding for Consultations between the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and the Secretariat General of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The aforementioned MoU will encapsulate and provide a context for a structured cooperation through thematic working groups, which will formulate a roadmap and identify our priorities on the way forward.
Cyprus, as the EU Member State that is closest to the Middle East and the Gulf and enjoys excellent relations with all countries of our wider region which, as I always underline, forms part of the EU’s South Neighbourhood has been methodically working towards promoting enhanced engagement and cooperation on the basis of shared interests, without exclusions on the basis of a positive agenda. This dimension forms a core pillar of our foreign policy.
EU-GCC relations also featured prominently in our deliberations. I reiterated our position that these ties are crucial in our joint efforts to successfully address the common challenges before us. At EU level, as you are aware, Your Excellency, I have consistently advocated the value of the EU being engaged with a critical stakeholder such as the GCC and flagged that our relations with the GCC have to feature prominently in the Foreign Affairs Council. I am hence pleased that as a result of these efforts, EU – GCC relations were included as a full discussion point in the FAC just two weeks ago. During that discussion, I had the opportunity to extensively highlight the importance of coordinating with the GCC in addressing our common geopolitical challenges and I was glad that we agreed to hold an EU-GCC Ministerial in the first quarter of 2022. Furthermore, together with my Maltese colleague, we plan to co-organize an informal breakfast for Dr. Al-Hajraf in the margins of December’s Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, which we are really looking forward to.
Naturally, an array of regional developments were also a core focus of our deliberations today. I had the opportunity to inform the Secretary General on the expanding potential of the trilateral cooperation mechanisms that Cyprus and Greece have established together with like-minded countries in the region, including with members of the GCC. Subsequently, we agreed to examine ways to include the GCC in our trilateral mechanisms, where appropriate.
Today, we also compared notes on the challenges in our neighbourhood that call for our urgent focus by both GCC and the EU. In this regard, we exchanged views on the situation in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Iran, with Dr. Al-Hajraf offering a most valuable and insightful account about the Gulf’s perspective.
On my part, I also had the opportunity to brief the Secretary General on the latest developments on the Cyprus problem, and I reiterated our firm commitment in support of the ongoing efforts of the Secretary General for the resumption of substantive negotiations, on the agreed basis, as set out by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions which provide for a bizonal bicommunal federation.
We also discussed the illegal and provocative activities of Turkey in the EEZ of Cyprus and in the fenced area of Varosha, which are part of Ankara’s revisionist foreign policy in the broader region and constitute yet another manifestation of flagrant disregard for International Law and the relevant Security Council Resolutions. These activities regrettably continue, despite condemnation from the international community and, in the case of Varosha, the explicit position of the Security Council through the Presidential Declaration of 23 July which calls on Turkey to reverse its illegal decisions and actions.
Once again, dear Nayef, let me warmly welcome you to Cyprus. I look forward to continuing our deliberations over lunch, in the company of the Ambassadors in Nicosia of the GCC member countries, with a view to further enhancing relations between Cyprus and the GCC, for the benefit of our countries and their peoples, and of course the region as a whole.
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