FM says important for EU to apply pressure towards Turkey, given its role in migration crisis

Cyprus has stressed the importance of the EU applying the necessary political pressure towards Turkey, given its role to managing migratory flows, in particular with a view to Turkey fulfilling all of its obligations in a non-discriminatory manner, Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides has said. He also pointed out that Cyprus basic premise, in effectively tackling humanitarian migration crisis, is that EU must look to root causes of crisis and address them and the key component in doing so is to engage more actively in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Christodoulides on Friday delivered a speech titled “The Migration Crisis: Europes Political Vision and how the crisis affects South Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East”, at the 9TH Limassol Economic Forum.

He said that Cyprus wants to have a more active involvement within the EU, beyond issues that directly touch upon the Cyprus problem and has worked methodically to build its voice in Brussels on an array of issues where Cyprus has a strong added value.

“To the deep and complex challenges we face, Cyprus strongly believes that the answer is more Europe, a stronger Europe with a more robust footing in international relations. We must look back to the core of the values that bind our Union together and project it outwards. At the same time, our messaging within the EU in addressing not only the migration crisis, but also other crises our Union faces, always has as a common denominator the need to preserve EU unity, solidarity and burden-sharing”, he added.

FM said that Cyprus, a member state of the European Union at the heart of where the root causes of the migration crisis are, has advocated from the very beginning for a holistic approach that strikes an effective balance between responsibility and solidarity, and fair responsibility-sharing among Member States, analogous to their integration capacities.

“We have strongly made the case for the need to find a fair, sustainable and effective European solution to this common challenge we are faced with. Cyprus has also raised the flag within the EU on the need to be vigilant regarding all migratory routes”, he said.

The Minister also pointed out that within this framework, Cyprus has fulfilled its relocation obligations in accordance with the 2015 Council Decisions, and never abstained from any solidarity measure put forward by the Commission.

“This is despite the very complex challenges that Cyprus is faced with, as an EU member state at the heart of the hotspot area, with no effective control of part of its territory and its northern external sea borders, due to Turkish military occupation, and with the presence of Turkish settlers in the occupied areas already creating serious demographic changes”, he said.

Furthermore, he added, Cyprus is providing financial assistance to Jordan and Lebanon to support their efforts regarding the reception of Syrian refugees, and has contributed with the amount of 100,000 euro to the EU Trust Fund for Africa.

In his speech the Minister said that Cyprus is, at the same time, striving to respond to the serious challenges posed by the steep growth in numbers of asylum applications. He said that in the first 8 months of 2018 there was a 55% increase in asylum applications compared with the same period in 2017, whilst in 2017 there was a 56% increase compared to 2016.

The majority of the arrivals, the Minister said, originate from Turkey, despite its’ obligation, according to the EU-Statement, to deter irregular migratory flows towards the EU and stop new routes from emerging. Recently we have registered increase on the irregular flows from neighbouring countries.

“The situation is further complicated by the fact that Turkey refuses to cooperate with Cypriot authorities, not implementing vis a vis Cyprus, the EU-Turkey Readmission agreement. We have stressed the importance of the EU applying the necessary political pressure towards Turkey, given its role to managing migratory flows, in particular with a view to Turkey fulfilling all of its obligations in a non-discriminatory manner”, he added.

Foreign Minister also said that Cyprus has consistently made the case in Brussels that unless we effectively address the root causes of the migration crisis, unless Europe becomes an active political actor in the Eastern Mediterranean – in Syria, Lebanon, in the Middle East Peace Process � we will not be able to effectively tackle the migration crisis in Europe.

“The same goes to other serious challenges we face at home, in Europe, such as the spread of violent extremism. We must look for answers where these challenges breed, and we believe that Cyprus, a member state of the Union and at the same time a country of the region and with excellent bilateral relations with its neighbours and a deep understanding of the dynamic of the region, can play a catalytic role in this direction”, the Minister pointed out.

Christodoulides said that in the last five years, Cyprus has exerted enormous efforts in making the case for the Eastern Mediterranean � for the EU to be a more active actor in addressing its challenges and also in helping it reach its enormous potential and has done so in two ways.

“In implementing two core pillars of our foreign policy � firstly, enhancing our historically close relations with the countries of the region, and creating a web of cooperation that creates the ground for regional security, stability and prosperity, and secondly, by being an active voice in the European Union, including by presenting the region’s perspective within the EU, and active as a bridge between the region”, he said.

Foreign Minister said that Cyprus has built on the traditionally excellent relations with its neighbours, and has worked methodically in deepening ties, and building cooperation that yields specific results that are beneficial not only for the countries involved but also for the region and for the Union.

He pointed out that at a time of shifting of powers in the region, Cyprus sees significant added value in increasing EU involvement in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“We believe our vision for the Eastern Mediterranean is relevant because the region is highly relevant � both because of its challenges but also due to its potential. We are investing political and diplomatic capital in the region because we believe in the region’s increasing geostrategic importance, which relates not only to its challenges but also to the promises it holds”, the Minister said.

Christodoulides also referred to Cyprus efforts in amplifying its role as an anchor of stability in the region, in a way that benefits not only countries of the region but also the Union.

He referred to the innovative trilateral cooperation mechanisms Cyprus has built with Greece and others in the region – such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon which, he said, are a manifestation of Cyprus strategy to create synergies and forge closer cooperation with moderate countries of the region in a broad range of areas, such as political and economic cooperation, security, culture, innovation and education.

“The discovery of significant hydrocarbon reserves in the region was catalytic to the creation of these mechanisms; our vision is that hydrocarbons can become the new coal and steel, in a new regional context. A tool of cooperation and synergies that could contribute significantly towards meeting the energy security needs of the region and that of the EU and gradually contribute to greater stability in relations among countries of the region and promote security and peace”, he said.

Referring to Cyprus role in regional security and countering terrorism, Christodoulides said that Cyprus is an active member of a number of international efforts, including the Coalition Against the Islamic State, and the Aqaba Process.

“We have actively, and in cooperation with some of our European allies, provided military assistance, and also provided non- military support to the EU efforts in the Sahel. We are also working closely with other, non-European partners, mainly with the United States. We cooperate with the US in providing specialized, mostly civilian type expertise, be it customs or border control being able to identify and contain certain chemicals, better storage and handling. These are considered to be highly important in the focus that is being directed against the transfer of illegal and usually non-conventional substances that could be used to create havoc”, the Minister said in his speech.

Foreign Minister spoke also about Cyprus role in the collective efforts of the international community for the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal, servicing as the host country of the support base of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-UN Joint Mission, and offering its infrastructure and facilities to other States which participated in the multilateral mission.

He also said that Cyprus facilitates the deployment of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) by hosting UNIFIL’s Maritime Task Force whose primary task is the preservation of peace and security of the shores of Lebanon in a highly volatile region. At the same time, Cyprus supports Lebanon’s efforts to confront the immense challenges is faced with, among others, through a productive military bilateral cooperation.

Source: Cyprus News Agency