The United Kingdom is a “key partner” in our effort to tackle common threats, Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides said. Welcoming in Nicosia the UK’s Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, Fokaides also assured that bilateral relations will not be affected by Britain’s decision to leave the EU.
This is the first visit Williamson pays to Cyprus after assuming his duties. During his meeting with Fokaides, in the presence of the leadership of the armed forces, he was accompanied by the UK Ambassador in Cyprus and other officials.
The two sides discussed regional developments and the next steps in strengthening their military cooperation, including humanitarian missions and crisis management.
Speaking after the meeting, Fokaides also said that he informed his counterpart about the latest developments in the Cyprus problem and reiterated Nicosia’s commitment to continue working for a viable and functioning solution that will turn Cyprus “a normal state, away from anachronistic guarantees”.
The Minister of Defence also pointed to the upgraded role of Cyprus, as a contributor to the region’s security, through defence agreements, bilateral and trilateral initiatives undertaken jointly with all neighboring countries that “remain committed towards stability, peace and avoid of course being provocative”.
The Eastern Mediterranean region can be turned into a zone of stability, development and prosperity, if we all realize that our common interest lies in cooperation, not in creating tension and airing threats, the Minister concluded.
From his part, Gavinson said that they had a productive and useful first meeting, aiming at “developing and building our partnership together”.
“We cannot underestimate the threats that we face in the world today, the problems and challenges that both Britain and Cyprus have to deal with” the British Secretary for Defence went on.
He added that he is “deeply grateful” for the support of the government of Cyprus towards the UK, as London helps to tackle some of the region’s challenges, such as the “Islamic State” or “Daesh”, or while trying to bring stability to the Middle East.
According to Williamson, the two sides have put a lot of work in building their partnership during the last few years. He talked about grasping the opportunity to deepen these bonds of friendship and of “making sure that the British armed forces work closer and more supportively with Cypriot armed forces”.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Source: CNA