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Cypriot FM discusses with senior officials, signs air services deal

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Cyprus to cement ties with Kuwait


KUWAIT CITY, Nov 24: The Foreign Affairs Minister of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides has affirmed the wise leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in strengthening Kuwait’s stability and its prominent role in building peace.

This is due to Kuwait’s balanced policies on international issues and its approach in solving disputes by seeking peaceful means and enhancing the role of the Security Council in preventing confl icts; let alone its humanitarian role in Syria and other places around the world.

In his exclusive interview with the Arab Times, Christodoulides revealed that he visited Kuwait to meet His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The Cypriot Foreign Affairs Minister is also scheduled to hold discussions with National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim, His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al- Hamad Al-Sabah, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled.

The objectives of these discussions include strengthening relations between the two countries as well as signing the air services agreement which will pave way for direct flights and to make the two nations closer. Christodoulides said the huge trade delegation accompanying him in this tour symbolizes Cyprus’ determination to cement economic and trade relations with Kuwait amid the agreements signed by both sides to strengthen cooperation and provide bigger investment opportunities.

He confirmed that Cyprus supports Kuwait’s bid to exempt its citizens from the Schengen visa, adding his country also strongly supports the European Union-Arab Summit which will be held early next year.

He applauded Kuwait’s support in terms of efforts to resume the political process to address the problem of Cyprus, and end the division of its island and its people.

On behalf of his country, he expressed appreciation to Kuwait for its initial position on the Cypriot problem and also its support in emphasizing the importance of solving the missing persons problem as soon as possible. He pointed out the essence of solving the Cypriot problem is through the establishment of the Bizonal Bicommunal Federation as per the United Nations resolutions.

Following is the full interview:

Question: What are the objectives of your visit to Kuwait?
Answer: It is my Government’s strong desire to further elevate the close and friendly ties between Cyprus and Kuwait and together to explore areas of additional mutually beneficial cooperation in both the bilateral, regional and multilateral contexts. I am particularly pleased to be paying an official visit to Kuwait at this time, and to have the opportunity to discuss how we might further develop the bilateral relations between our two countries with my colleague Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. I am particularly honored that His Highness the Amir has granted me an audience. I look forward also to my discussions with the Prime Minister, as well as with the Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly. I am confident that my visit will highlight the excellent relations existing between our two countries and peoples and will, I believe, generate additional momentum. The sizeable business delegation accompanying me is also indicative of Cyprus’ determination to strengthen the economic and trade relations between Cyprus and Kuwait. We will also be discussing regional developments and how the two countries can work together to address challenges, with a view to promoting stability and security in the broader Middle East region.

Q: How do you see the relations between Kuwait and Cyprus?
A: Cyprus and Kuwait enjoy a strong and enduring relationship based on common values and principles, shared interests and a genuine mutual respect. As two countries committed to a rules-based international order, we are both UN minded countries. As victims of foreign illegal invasion, there is a common approach in our commitment and respect for the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and for international law.

A number of Kuwaitis fled to Cyprus following the invasion of Iraq in 1990 and Kuwait opened its doors to Cypriots who sought work abroad following the Turkish invasion and occupation in 1974. These tragic experiences and difficult times faced bind our countries and peoples emotionally. Furthermore, the numerous bilateral agreements that have been signed assist in forging closer cooperation and provide opportunities for investment.

During my meeting with my Kuwaiti counterpart, we will be signing the much awaited Air Services Agreement, which will pave way for direct flights, bringing our people even closer. Cyprus and Kuwait share similar experiences.

Kuwait’s strategic position overlooking the entire Gulf, gives it a unique perspective of the region. Its location alone and under the wise leadership of His Highness the Amir, gives it a prominent peace-building role and a force for stability. In the same way, Cyprus, being the EU’s lighthouse in the Eastern Mediterranean, has embarked on implementing its own vision of being a conduit for cooperation and stability in our region.

This, I believe, is most vividly demonstrated by the web of trilateral cooperation mechanisms we have established together along Greece, with countries of our immediate region. These vistas of cooperation are bringing an added value and constitute a prime example of good neighborly relations, a basic tenet of Kuwait’s relations with its neighbors as well.

Q: What is your evaluation of Kuwait’s role in the Security Council as a non-permanent member one year after this membership? How do you see the role of Kuwait in finding solutions to the problems in the region as well as its role internationally?
A: We commend the role that Kuwait has played as a member of the Security Council; a balanced policy towards issues on the agenda of the Security Council with a focus on the primacy of the UN Charter and respect for international law, all of which constitute priorities for Cyprus as well.

Furthermore, Kuwait has been proactive in promoting the role of the Security Council in conflict prevention, mediation efforts and solution of conflicts by peaceful means. This is also seen in its efforts in relation to the Yemeni crisis, where it has played a very constructive and commendable role and its holding of three international Humanitarian Donors’ Conferences for Syria. Kuwait supports efforts to enhance the methods of work of the Security Council and stresses the importance of compliance by Member States with UNSC resolutions. We commend also Kuwait’s engagement on humanitarian issues and its promotion of the need for a coordinated international response to humanitarian crises.

Kuwait supports United Nations efforts in combating terrorism and extremism, in all their forms and manifestations, from whatever source and actively promotes the idea of tolerance and openness amongst nations.

This is an outlook and posture that Cyprus shares. On the Cyprus issue, Kuwait has been supportive, in the framework of the deliberations in the Security Council, of the efforts to restart the political process for the settlement of the Cyprus problem and ending the division of the island and its people. We are grateful to Kuwait for its principled position, as well as for the admirable sensitivity and support it has shown in stressing the importance of urgently resolving the missing persons’ issue.

Q: Cyprus is considered, geographically, the nearest country among the members of the European Union to the Arabic Region, how much does Cyprus care about regional problems such as Syria, Iraq and Yemen?
A: We maintain excellent ties with all countries of the wider region. Recognizing the rising importance of our immediate neighborhood, and based on the long-standing close relations Cyprus enjoys with its neighbors, we have in recent years re-oriented our foreign policy. One of the core pillars of this re-orientation is that we have been actively and methodically enhancing and expanding our ties with the countries of the Middle East and the Gulf region.

Indeed, upon assuming my new responsibilities at the Foreign Ministry earlier this year, some of the very first visits I made in the immediate region included, amongst others, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, and thereafter to the Gulf – amongst others, to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and now Kuwait.

High on the agenda of the discussions is how to foster understanding and collaboration, how to construct a positive, results oriented agenda between the EU and the region, how to get the EU more actively involved in the challenges, but also the opportunities the region presents.

There is no doubt that conflicts in our immediate or wider region have ripple effects which do not limit themselves to the geographic confines of those countries. We have seen this for example with migration, an issue at the top of the agenda of many European countries. One only has to look at the agenda for successive Foreign Affairs Council meetings in Brussels to understand that the issues being faced in the MENA and wider region are at the forefront of the EU’s concerns and deliberations.

Q: Cyprus is member of the European Union, what is the Cypriot position on exempting Kuwaitis from the Schengen visa? What is the role that Cyprus can play to increase convergence between the Arabic Region and European Union?
A: In the context of relevant discussions at European Union level, Cyprus has been consistently supporting visa liberalization for Kuwaiti regular passport holders. Cyprus continuously encourages the further development of relations between the EU and countries of the region, of course including Kuwait. In this respect, we have been ardent supporters of the upcoming EU-League of Arab States Summit to take place in early 2019 and very much support the enhancement of relations between the EU and the countries of the Gulf region, both individually and also within the framework of EU-GCC relations, when the circumstances allow. I would like to underline that the countries of the region can count on Cyprus as a friendly voice within the EU and a keen proponent of enhancing EU relations with the region and a greater understanding of the region and its specification.

Q: If we talk about the situation in Cyprus, how do you see the discoveries that Cyprus makes in the field of oil and gas and how can Cyprus take advantage of this wealth so that it can play a bigger role in the region?
A: The discovery of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean has opened new horizons in our bilateral relations. Perhaps, the most important step was undertaken with the conclusion of three agreements – with Egypt, Israel and Lebanon – delimiting our respective Exclusive Economic Zones, based on the median line principle, in line with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Exclusive Economic Zones delimitation created the necessary legal and economic security, which attracted major oil and gas companies to invest and do business in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus has adopted the view that hydrocarbons can become a tool of cooperation and synergies that would create an economy of scale, an inviting environment for companies and investors; a tool that would meet the energy security needs of the region and gradually contribute to greater stability in relations among countries of the region and promote security and peace. And ultimately, why not, a catalyst for greater, more institutionalized political co-operation in the region. To this end, and being accepted by all as an honest broker with no hidden agenda, we have reinforced our historic close ties with the countries of our immediate region and, alongside Greece, we have established trilateral partnerships with neighboring countries. These trilateral mechanisms constitute a fitting example of what can be achieved when countries with shared concerns and common interests join powers, instead of isolating themselves. The trilateral mechanisms are a first promising step to what can develop, when conditions are ripe, into a regional, institutionalized cooperation mechanism, and a regional dialogue serving the common goals of strengthening relations, promoting solidarity and mutual understanding.

Q: What are the latest developments in the Cyprus problem?
A: The UN Secretary General in his report on Cyprus last October, expressed the view that prospects for a comprehensive settlement remain alive. For us, the current state of affairs will never be accepted as a solution and we therefore welcome the Secretary General’s assessment as well as his conviction that the way ahead must be well prepared. In this regard, we are closely engaging with his representative Ms Jane Holl Lute, who was in Cyprus on 31 Oct 2018. We will do our utmost to contribute to the materialization of the Secretary General’s hope that upcoming discussions can lead to the deployment of the full weight of his good offices mission. We remain committed to continue negotiations from where they were left off in Crans Montana on the basis of the six-point package of the UNSG and the hard won acquis that was formed during the process. The basis of the solution remains the bizonal, bicommunal federation as described in United Nations Resolutions, that will reunify Cyprus as a modern, functional and EU acquis-compliant State without external interference, guarantees or foreign troops, that will be able to continue to exercise its role as an actor of stability, prosperity and a crossroad of cooperation in the wider region of the Middle East.

By Shawqi Mahmoud Al-Seyassah Staff