Cyprus – Malta face common challenges and cooperation is essential, Defence Minsters say

Cyprus and Malta, as Mediterranean member states of the EU, are faced with common challenges and threats and bilateral cooperation and coordination is necessary to tackle these problems effectively, the Defence Ministers of the two countries Christoforos Fokaides and Michael Farrugia have said.

The two Ministers met on Wednesday in Nicosia, on Farrugias first official visit to Cyprus and the first by a Maltese Defence Minister. The two had a tete-a-tete meeting followed by consultations between delegations of the two Ministries.

Speaking to the press, Fokaides said that the presence of the Maltese Minister demonstrates the willingness of the two countries to open new ways of cooperation and to convert their close and traditional ties of friendship into mutually beneficial policies. He said that these ties have been built on the basis of common principles and values and are enhanced by the participation of both Malta and Cyprus in the EU.

He added that Cyprus and Malta, as two Mediterranean countries facing common challenges and threats, have to work together to promote their common interests as well as security, stability and peace in the region.

According to the Defence Minister, in particular they discussed the prospect of cooperation between Mediterranean EU member states in the framework of the Med 7 initiative. pointing out that the Heads of the Med 7 states are meeting today in Rome.

Fokaides said that “we need to develop a framework for cooperation at the level of Defence Ministers with the aim to address these common challenges such as migration, illicit arms trafficking, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, maritime and energy security.”

He also referred to the initiatives of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean region and the cooperation agreements of strategic importance it has signed with various countries to promote stability, security and development in a region of turmoil.

Fokaides also underlined that both countries have a close cooperation within the EU, in the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy.

During the meeting, Fokaides briefed his counterpart on the Cyprus solution prospects, saying that the Greek Cypriot side has demonstrated its will and commitment to continue working within the UN framework for a solution that will end Turkish occupation and reunite the country.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Peace talks under the UN auspices aim at reuniting the island under a federal roof. The latest round of UN-backed talks ended without yielding any results.

The Maltese Minister in his statements to the press pointed out that his country has an excellent relationship with Cyprus, across many fora and in many issues, adding that the two countries share a rich history and both look forward to an even greater collaboration in the months and the years ahead.

My meeting with the Defence Minister served to engage us closer in political level and during the talks we have focused on the situation in the Mediterranean, notably on the challenges because of the instability which characterises many parts of the region. In this connection we have worked on a number of issues like irregular migration, we have also touched on how we can work to organise prime networks and strengthen maritime security and reviewed recent developments in the EU defence, he said.

According to Farrugia, during the talks they also touched upon the many tragic incidents in various EU member states and he said that Malta believes that citizens’ security should be on the uppermost level, at both national and EU levels. He pointed out that Malta believes that the EU must be flexible enough to cater for the needs and circumstances of its member states and emphasises that Europe must focus in security and quality of lives of the citizens as threats continue to diversify and multiply.

I think it is fair to say that both Malta and Cyprus are focused on defence and national security especially on the control of the external borders in view of challenges posed by international criminal networks and migration flows, better maritime surveillance and deepening defence cooperation in the Mediterranean region, he said.

Farrugia also went on to say that Malta will continue to exert pressure at all European levels to find the ways and means to face irregular migration flows by strengthening control over external borders. Malta would continue to insist on mandatory sharing of responsibilities among EU countries, during the meeting I also talked about the possibility of exploring possible opportunities of bilateral cooperation between armed forces in areas of search and rescue, training at military academies and joint deployment in peace operations approved by EU and UN, he said.

According to Farrugia, such bilateral ties are useful because they provide the platform to discuss tangible ways on how our countries can better coordinate and act together in real time both on technical and political level.

Source: Cyprus News Agency