The historic visit of the President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Cyprus next week will create new dynamics in the relationship between the two countries and will provide new momentum to further promote and enhance cooperation on all levels, says Mai Taha Khalil, the Ambassador of Egypt to Cyprus.
In an interview with Cyprus News Agency, Ambassador Khalil also reiterates Cairo’s adherence to international law, both with regard to a Cyprus settlement and in relation to energy cooperation.
Through intensive cooperation, Egypt and Cyprus can be “very important players in the field of energy and act as a regional hub to export natural gas to Europe and Asia”, the Ambassador stresses, ahead of President Sisi’s arrival in Nicosia.
“The upcoming bilateral visit will be a historic one as it is the first official state visit for an Egyptian President to Cyprus since the establishment of our diplomatic relations” Khalil notes.
According to the Ambassador, bilateral discussions with the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, this Monday are expected to focus on the latest developments in the Cyprus issue, regional issues, and on ways to intensify bilateral coordination. The two leaders are also expected to exchange views over cooperation in combating terrorism and violent extremism and in promoting regional security, long-term stability and prosperity, she adds.
Economic cooperation and investment opportunities between the two countries will be discussed as well, as the two Presidents will participate in the first “Cypriot – Egyptian Business Forum”, along with many businessmen.
The Egyptian Ambassador says that experts from both sides are working hard these days to finalize several agreements of cooperation in different fields, to be signed during the visit. This will add to the excellent relations existing between Cyprus and Egypt, Khalil notes.
President Sisi will visit Cyprus for the second time. He paid his first visit in April 2015, when he participated in the 2nd trilateral Summit with the leaders of Greece and Cyprus. This Tuesday, President Anastasiades will host the 5th trilateral Summit between Cyprus, Egypt and Greece, in Nicosia.
Asked about President Sisi’s message to the leaders attending this Summit, Ambassador Khalil says that he will reiterate “Egypt’s commitment to continue nurturing our tripartite cooperation” while exploring how to enhance relations with Cyprus and Greece, building on the significant progress achieved so far.
The newly-appointed Ambassador to Cyprus also observes that trilateral cooperation is a mechanism to further enhance the existing high-level dialogue between the leaders of the three countries and to ensure a continuous atmosphere of mutual understanding.
“Political coordination and cooperation in the fields of trade, economy, culture, tourism, among other things, within the context of the development agenda, are mutually beneficial and help to achieve stability and peace in our volatile region which faces many threats, especially terrorism” she underlines.
The Ambassador recalls that the trilateral cooperation between Egypt, Cyprus and Greece was the first trilateral mechanism to be established in the region.
Cairo supports the “fair demands of the Cypriot people” for a settlement
Asked about Cairo’s position on the Cyprus issue, following the latest attempt for a settlement, at the Crans-Montana Conference, last summer, Khalil says that Egypt’s stance “was and will always remain firm and consistent”.
“Egypt stands for a comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue that will unify the island in accordance with international law, including the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions” she says.
The Ambassador believes that this kind of settlement, along with the implementation of confidence building measures between the two communities “will not only benefit the people of Cyprus as a whole, but will also significantly contribute to the stability and peace in the region”.
Khalil says that Egypt has always been committed to coordinate with Cyprus in all regional and international organizations, particularly in the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation “in a way that aims at promoting the fair demands of the Cypriot people to reach a settlement and reunify their island in a federal state, with both communities living together in peace and tolerance”.
Regarding the discovery of hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt’s Ambassador says they should serve as a catalyst for regional cooperation in the field of energy.
“Egypt believes that this cooperation would be better served through the adherence of the countries of the region to well established principles of international Law”, says Khalil, while emphasizing the universal character of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
She also observes that energy cooperation between Cyprus and Egypt is developing rapidly, especially after the December 2013 visit of President Anastasiades to Egypt and the signing of the framework agreement for the development of cross-median line hydrocarbon reservoirs.
This reflects the willingness of both sides to achieve the optimum usage of the common reservoirs of hydrocarbons in the region, she says.
In her interview with CNA, Ambassador Khalil finally points to the “strong historic and traditional ties between the three friendly nations”.
“Needless to say, that Egypt hosted tens of thousands of Cypriots and Greeks during the last century and there are many Egyptians of Cypriot descent living in Egypt and many Egyptians living and working nowadays in Cyprus and Greece, where they feel at home due to the shared traditions, cultures, values and history” the Ambassador concludes.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The latest round of UN-backed negotiations, in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, ended inconclusively in July 2017.