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11-09-2019 15:02

Statement to the Press by the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the occasion of the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia

It is with distinct pleasure that I welcome today in Nicosia, my colleague, His Excellency, Dr Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I am exceptionally pleased and honoured to receive and host you and your delegation in Cyprus. Most importantly, I am most pleased to welcome you as the first Saudi Foreign Minister - for that matter the very first Saudi High Official- to be paying an official visit to Cyprus.

I wish to emphasise that your visit to Cyprus is highly significant for many reasons. First and foremost it is a testament of the joint political will and commitment of Cyprus and Saudi Arabia to concretely upgrade our relations. I would also like to salute the appointment of the first resident Ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Cyprus, who presented his credentials last week.

Today’s meeting reflects the willingness of the two sides to strengthen their political and economic ties. One of the main focus of Cyprus’s foreign policy is the enhancement and expansion of relations with its neighboring Middle East and Gulf countries. It is in this context that I visited Saudi Arabia in April 2018, only a month after assuming my duties as Foreign Minister, as part of a tour of visits to the whole region – which is Cyprus’ neighborhood but also the EU’s neighborhood. 

On the bilateral front, we had a substantial and forward-looking discussion on the full spectrum of our relations and looked at ways to further expand them. Some important steps have already been taken with the entering into force of the Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Air Services Agreement, two very important instruments that pave the way forward in our bilateral relations.

We also discussed the prospective avenues of cooperation offered by the promising Vision 2030 program. I believe that there is immense untapped potential in the political, economic, energy, security, military and defence fields that needs to be explored. As such, Minister Al-Assaf and I, looked at ways on how to proceed, and we are in agreement that we need to work on building a structured cooperation. We have been sketching a roadmap, identifying priorities on the way forward. 

We both agreed that we need to work together to boost people to people contacts and to concentrate on the sectors of tourism and investment. In this context, we stand ready to proceed with the facilitation of bilateral business forums in our two countries, respectively, within the framework of our Economic Diplomacy programme.

We compared notes at length on some of the most serious and pressing challenges in our region, including the Middle East Peace Process, Syria, Iran and Yemen, and I was particularly interested to hear from Minister Al-Assaf his perspective on these issues. It was evident throughout our discussions that there is a shared understanding that together we can address common challenges – from terrorism, to the rise of extremism, to climate change - more effectively.

I had the opportunity to brief the Minister on the latest developments in the trilateral cooperation mechanisms Cyprus and Greece have established with countries in the region, including Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine. Their common denominator is a shared vision for a future of peace, stability and prosperity in our region. They are inclusive and exclude no one who shares their vision and respects the core principles on which they are based. 

We also discussed EU-Saudi relations. I reiterated our position that EU-Saudi cooperation is crucial in our efforts to successfully address the common challenges in our region. Cyprus will continue to actively advocate in Brussels for their meaningful and multi-dimensional enhancement.

I had of course the opportunity to brief Foreign Minister Al Assaf on the latest developments on the Cyprus problem and express our sincere appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s position in support of our efforts to reach a just, viable and comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem and to reunify our country. Taking into consideration recent developments in our Exclusive Economic Zone and particularly the illegal activities and aggressive behaviour of Turkey, the solidarity and support of countries such as Saudi Arabia is indispensable.

Once again, dear Ibrahim, let me warmly welcome you to Cyprus. I look forward to continuing our close collaboration for the further enhancement of Cyprus-Saudi relations, for the benefit of our countries, our peoples, and the region.

(MG/SCH)