Greece and Cyprus enjoy “brotherly relations” and identifical views on their interests, Foreign Minister George Katrougalos said on Tuesday, following his meeting with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides in Nicosia. Asked about his upcoming meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Antalya, Katrougalos said he would “ask to hear more specific views” from Ankara regarding a Cyprus solution during the meeting.
“…the other side has not yet opened its cards on how it is thinking of replacing the unacceptable regime of guarantees with a mechanism that does not repeat the colonial elements, which were contrary to international law, of the previous legal regime,” the minister said.
Greece and Cyprus want to start a preparatory discussion, on an informal footing at first, so that there can be some progress that will allow real negotiations to begin, building on the progress made at Crans Montana, Katrougalos added.
Christodoulides, on his part, said the goals was to have talks that will lead to a good result and “not talks for the sake of talks”.
Topics discussed during Katrougalos’ meetings with Cyprus’ leadership included the multiple-level cooperation between Greece and Cyprus and its coordination ahead of the Greece-Cyprus-Israel trilateral summit in Jerusalem on Wednesday, as well as the Greek minister’s meeting with Cavusoglu in Antalya on Thursday.
In a tweet after meeting Katrougalos, Anastasiades spoke of “mutual understanding and complete coordination of our governments.”
During the joint press conference with Christodoulides, the Greek foreign minister said his talks were “not like a bilateral contact; we feel that we are all on the same side defending the same values and interests.”
The meeting had “confirmed the self-evident: the brotherly relations between the two states, the complete consensus on interests and on tactics and strategy,” Katrougalos added.
Referring to the Cyprus issue, he reiterated that it was primarily an issue of violation of international law and an issue of the occupation of a sovereign state, while stressing the importance of building on the progress made at Crans Montana. Athens, he added, “will do whatever lies within our power to strive for its solution on the basis of UN resolutions and international law.”
Regarding Europe and the EU-Turkey relationship, Katrougalos noted that “Turkey’s European perspective should not be ruled out, with the self-evident condition of respect, on Turkey’s part, of international law and good neighbour relations.” It was in the best interests of both the EU and Turkey to keep Turkey’s road to Europe open, he said, but also of Greece and Cyprus.
The Greek minister reported “absolute agreement” with Cyprus on this issue, adding: “It is in the interests of the Turkish people, our own countries and the EU that there should not be an anti-European, hostile Turkey on the eastern borders of the EU. We are opposed to the cultivation on many sides of a climate of Islamophobia that is contrary to the practice of open societies that Europe has always promoted and contrary to European culture, which has its own values but also respect for the other.”
Christodoulides echoed this position, saying that Nicosia opposed the termination of accession negotiations with Turkey. “This will not help either in the solution of the Cyprus problem or what we want to achieve with respect to Turkey: its conversion into a country that respects human rights and the rule of law, that can be close to the EU,” he said, while pointing out that Turkey will always be a neighbour.
On the trilateral summit with Israel on Wednesday, Katrougalos said Athens and Nicosia wanted to further extend this cooperation and said it was a “tangible example of the improvement of the diplomatic strength of Greece and Cyprus.”
“Without turning against any other party, they are protecting their interests in the best way in the region and not only on the level of defending our economic interests but primarily in the defence of our geostrategic and geopolitical interests,” he added, repeating that Athens and Nicosia were not just pillars of stability but “exporters of stability”.
Questioned about the presence of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Jerusalem meeting, Katrougalos made the following reply:
“The economic diplomacy we are exercising is in the service of this broader geostrategic goal and the participation of the US Secretary of State in this trilateral meeting is also a confirmation of the new, upgraded geostrategic role of Cyprus and Greece, as well as a guarantee that the exploitation of the Cyprus Republic’s sovereign rights on the resources from its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) will be respected, because this is mandated by international law.”
According to Christodoulides, this ad hoc participation of the United States was proof of the significance and importance of this “key pillar in the foreign policy” and would soon be followed by further ad hoc participations of this kind, by other states. As an example, he cited a desire expressed by France to take part in the trilateral with Egypt.
Regarding tension in the Aegean stoked by Turkey, Katrougalos said that a discussion on a road map for a further de-escalation of tension in the Aegean, “which obviously benefits neither side,” will be the second focus of his meeting with Cavusoglu.