Tánaiste and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland Simon Coveney said on Friday that his country would support Cyprus “in any way that we can to try and find the way forward that I think everybody wants to see,” on the Cyprus Question.
On his part, in joint statements to the press after talks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nicosia, Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides took the opportunity to “publicly express our gratitude for Ireland’s solid and steadfast support in our aims.”
The two men, spoke of the shared interests the two island countries have both on a bilateral, European and international level and of their wish to strengthen the already excellent ties between them. Coveney underlined a wish for even closer ties after Brexit and Christodoulides stated Cyprus’ full solidarity with Ireland on the matter.
“Although geographically located on opposite extremes of Europe there can perhaps be no two other nations with so much in common than Cyprus and Ireland,” Christodoulides said.
Today, he added, “we had the opportunity to review this excellent level of our bilateral relations and we examined ways through which we could strengthen these ties even further in fields such as trade, investments, higher education and tourism, as well as through enhancing our regular consultations on different levels both bilaterally as well as in the EU and other international fora.”
The Cypriot Foreign Minister noted that “we also discussed issues of common concern including the situation in Syria, the Middle Peace Process and we exchanged ideas on how we could work together to promote peace and strengthen stability in the wider region.”
“I am convinced that there is scope for undertaking joint action to this effect,” he stressed.
Christodoulides thanked his Irish counterpart for briefing him about his contacts in Jordan and Israel.
“In the context of our deliberations I had the opportunity to present to the minister the trilateral initiatives we have developed along with Greece with the neighbouring countries in the region, which aim to create synergies and further promote solidarity and mutual understanding, as well as peace, stability and prosperity through cooperation.”
“We also discussed various current issues on our European agenda including of course Brexit and its implications on both Cyprus and Ireland since both of our countries are directly affected to a large extent by UK’s exit from the EU,” he noted.
“I listened with interest to Simon on the latest developments and the major implications that Brexit will have on Ireland, given the extremely close links between the two countries,” the Foreign Minister said, stressing that “we stand fully in solidarity with Ireland on this very sensitive issue.”
On my part, he continued, “I briefed my Irish colleague on the latest developments in our efforts to resume negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem as well as the developments in our EEZ. Let me take the opportunity to publicly express our gratitude for Ireland’s solid and steadfast support in our aims.”
He further expressed “our appreciation to Ireland which on countless occasions has shown its solidarity with the people of Cyprus in many ways and in difficult times has been by Cyprus’ side.”
He voiced gratitude “especially to the thousands of Irish soldiers who have served in UNFICYP from 1964 to 2005, as well as to the Irish police officers who have been serving in Cyprus since 1993.”
On his part Simon Coveney agreed that “while, as you say, we are on two different ends of the extremities of the EU, you to the South and us to the West, we have a lot in common.”
“We know what it is like to live on an island that is divided; We know what it is like to go through an IMF programme; We know the value of EU membership and the protections that it provides; We have a shared interest in the Middle East Process,” he added.
This, he acknowledged, “is your neighbourhood of course,” noting that “it is a big policy priority for us but it is your neighbourhood.”
The Irish FM continued saying that “we have had Irish people in this neighbourhood for many, many years; Irish peacekeepers in Southern Lebanon, Irish peacekeepers today on the Golan Heights, Irish police officers here in Cyprus working with you in partnership and we, off course, have direct flights now between Ireland and Cyprus too and an Irish airline, Ryanair, which brings about 600,000 people to Cyprus every year.”
“So, I think there is a lot more for us to do together, to build on what is already a very warm and positive bilateral relationship,” he pointed out.
According to Coveney “in a post-Brexit scenario, you will see Ireland and Cyprus working even more closely together in many ways.”
“Both of us have a similar approach to Brexit, we want to see Britain as close as possible to the EU in the future. Of course, Britain is our neighbour but it also has a very special relationship with Cyprus,” he said.
So, he noted, “whether it is Brexit, whether it is the Middle Eastern Process, whether it is the future of the EU, whether it is island economies, whether it is ensuring that small countries have a real say by working together ensuring that we are involved in big decisions that often involve countries that are multiples of our size.”
All of the above are reasons “for us to spend time together, build a friendship and a trust that can allow us to work together on individual projects and on new policy initiatives in the interest of this region and off course Cyprus and also from our perspective in the interest of the EU,” he added.
On the Cyprus question itself, he said, “we want to be helpful.”
“We are trying to be and we will support you in any way that we can to try and find the way forward that I think everybody wants to see,” he added.