German Defense Minister says Cyprus is at a crucial geostrategic location and must reinforce its capabilities

German Defense Minister Ursula Von Der Leyen has said that Cyprus is at a crucial geostrategic location and must reinforce its capabilities, praising at the same time its role in PESCO, the Permanent Structured Cooperation of the EU. We are happy we have you on board she said, addressing on Tuesday a conference organized by the Democratic Rally (DISY) titled European and Eastern Mediterranean Security: Geopolitical challenges and opportunities.

The Minister also expressed her support and solidarity to Cyprus and the struggle to reunite the island as well as the solidarity of her country and of the other member states to Cyprus’ sovereign right to explore and exploit its natural resources in its exclusive economic zone. She also praised Cyprus’ economic development over the past years, saying that overcoming the crisis was impressive.

The Minister said that there are many similarities between Cyprus and Germany as Germany was a divided country and said that the Cypriots and their leadership don’t forget the vision of reunifying their country.

Talking about the EU and the challenges it faces, Von Der Leyen said that the EU stands for peace, solidarity, reconciliation, cooperation and tolerance and has emerged to become a trade giant and an economic superpower but was also the answer to wars that took place in Europe.

It is now time to step up and write yet another success story with a common foreign and defense policy , she said, adding that EU has to tackle terrorism and violation of law, cyberthreat, populism and Brexit and needs to stand up to these challenges.

The German Minister referred to PESCO saying that it is a starting point and that Cyprus, as a member, has so many capabilities. It is important to have you on board , right now there is a huge fragmentation of armies and we spend a lot of money and we need to overcome this.

She went on to say that NATO will always be number one for collective defense but there are other fields where the EU is called upon to act and react, ie in Africa.

There is still work to be done, we need to define our foreign policy in the international arena, she pointed out.

Von Der Leyen said that in Syria there is military engagement but we need to define a foreign policy there, especially now that there is political transition and the local population needs assistance and support.

She also said that the beliefs of rule of law, plurality, tolerance and dignity for all are indispensable in the EU.

We are stronger together , multilateralism works, we are better if our neighbors are better and rules are not violated, she said.

Referring to the upcoming EU elections and the rise of populist parties, right and left , she said that they have a common goal and they are united in wanting to destroy and divide Europe. We will not let this happen, we must be reliable, soli and cooperative, she said.

Cyprus’ Defense Minister Savvas Angelides referred to the gunboat diplomacy of Turkey and its role in the region. He said that Cyprus enjoys friendly relations with all the counties in the regon, except Turkey for obvious reasons.

He referred to the challenges of the refugee crisis and the expansion of terrorism in EU territories saying that we must be united in managing these crises and we must alter the economic interests in the region.

EU must act responsibly, Cyprus is a security provider and EU can be a positive force on capacity building in the region, he added. Angelides also referred to the instability in Syria and EU’s role in post conflict on the ground, with the aim to strengthen the local population.

Cyprus is at a unique location and plays a geostrategic role , we must reinforce the existing cooperation with our neighbors for a positive agenda, he said, referring also to the initiatives taken by Cyprus in organizing the recent EU -Arab League summit in Sharm el Sheikh and the trilateral and bilateral agreements Cyprus has with many countries at the region.

Democratic Rally President Averof Neofytou in his speech said that the severe humanitarian and refugee crises have increased migration flows but at the same time the energy potential has turned the global energy spotlight on the region.

The recent announcements from ExxonMobil regarding Glafkos in our Exclusive Economic Zone are telling of this potential. The geopolitical map is changing. New horizons for bilateral relations in the region are opening for Cyprus and the European Union, creating conditions for wider synergies, he said.

Neofytou went on to say that the strategic objective is to transform the Eastern Mediterranean from a region of conflict into one of stability, security and prosperity, pointing out that the EU has a role to play to safeguard the stability of the region.

Cyprus is an EU Member State with full-fledged involvement in European Defence matters. It is full member of PESCO, a legally binding commitment of European member states for closer cooperation in security and defence. To achieve this, enhanced coordination, increased investment in defence and cooperation in developing defence capabilities are key and Cyprus is a committed member, he underlined.

He referred to the long – standing historical ties of friendship, cooperation, and mutual understanding with all neighboring countries, except Turkey, which brings to the European table our bridging role.

The trilateral cooperation mechanisms promoted with Greece and key players such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon are core to this. And serve as a model of regional dialogue, contributing to the consolidation of peace, stability and prosperity. They also serve as a tool for achieving greater understanding and cooperation on all levels. There is no doubt that these initiatives will contribute not only to regional security, but also to the security of the European Union and its citizens, he said.

Accoring to DISY President, the potential of the European Union to act as a security provider in the turbulent region is valid and comprehensive and goes beyond defence, focusing on cooperation, diplomacy, economic growth, stability and societal security.

Speaking later during a press conference, Neofytou said that he is happy to have here today a European leader with vision for the EU, pointing out that in order for Europe to have credible foreign policy , we need credible defense policy. He also said that in the upcoming EU elections there are right and left parties with a common goal and that is to demolish the European foundation.

We the people and the parties of EPP we have a great European vision and we will fight together to make Europe stronger and more secure, he added.

Neofytou thanked her for her solidarity and support for the sovereign right of an EU state such as Cyprus to explore its natural resources in the exclusive economic zone and said that Cypriots, as Germans did in 1991, will keep on fighting to reunite the island.

The German Minister said that she is happy to be among friends and referred to the fact that Manfred Weber started his campaign in Cyprus and there are good reasons for this as Cyprus achieved an impressive economic success, something that shows a lot of leadership. It is also, she said, a country that has a strong vision for one united island.

As a German I can tell you that we have great sympathy for Cyprus that suffers from division and we Germans know how you feel, she said, expressing her hope that one day there will be peace.

Asked about the Turkish provocations, she said that we have internationally agreed laws and order and added that these rules do not limit us but they put a peaceful cooperation and coexistence which gives all those who abide with it a prospect for better future.

She said that all EU member states show solidarity and are by Cyprus’ side, adding that it matters to us that the rules we once signed, are being respected.

Source: Cyprus News Agency