Cypriot president praises ties on eve of Jordan visit

NICOSIA — Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades commended the good ties between his country and Jordan and said his visit to the Kingdom, which is scheduled to start today, will look into means of enhancing them.

In an interview with The Jordan Times and Al Rai in the Cypriot capital last week, the president said his talks in Amman with His Majesty King Abdullah will tackle regional developments and issues of mutual concern (see text of interview).

The president voiced hope that the opening of a Cypriot embassy in Amman in 2009 and the opening of a Jordanian embassy in Nicosia “in the near future” would help advance bilateral cooperation, noting that trade exchange between the two countries was on the rise, with a 40 per cent increase registered in 2015 compared to last year. “But there is still more to be done.”

This is the reason, Anastasiades said, that he is bringing with him to Amman a business delegation to explore new opportunities of cooperation. “I want to assure you that Jordan has a special place both in our regional priorities and in our broader foreign policy, and we will continue advancing our mutually beneficial relationship, to the benefit of our peoples,” noted Anastasiades, who emphasised that cooperation between the two “moderate” countries duing these tough regional times has become a must.

“Taking into consideration the current situation in the wider Middle East and the developments in the Arab world, the cooperation between two moderate countries like ours becomes even more important and imperative,” he said. “

In a broader context, our two countries share the common objective of creating an environment conducive to lasting peace, stability and development in the region and beyond, in which Jordan is a factor of stability and has an essential role to play.” Anastasiades praised Jordan’s role in dealing with the Syrian refugee problem and hosting around 1.5 million Syrians despite the economic burdens and the challenges it is facing. He said his talks will also delve into the Kingdom’s ties with the European Union, reiterating “that Cyprus, as a true and sincere friend of Jordan, will continue to exercise a positive influence when Jordanian interests are discussed to ensure that the refugee influx does not jeopardise the development gains achieved in your country in recent years”. In this context, the president said his country fully supports the establishment of the Mobility Partnership between Jordan and the EU, noting that the Cyprus problem will also be one of the subjects to be tackled in Amman.

“I will also inform about the Cyprus problem and the latest developments and convey my government’s sincere appreciation for Jordan’s principled position on the Cyprus issue, and its support for the termination of the Turkish occupation and the reunification of the country on the basis of the UN Security Council’s relevant resolutions.” Anastasiades said he remains optimistic that an agreement will be reached between the two Cypriot communities in accordance with the pertinent UN resolutions and the EU acquis and based on former agreements between the two sides. “I want to assure that I remain committed to tirelessly work towards finding a settlement and we shall succeed at the very end, I am sure, with the contribution of all stakeholders and all those involved,” he said. Noting that the choice of a new Turkish Cypriot leader has improved the negotiations climate and led to some progress since May, he emphasised that significant challenges remain to be tackled by negotiators. Turning to regional developments, the Cypriot president said the international community has failed to understand the complexities of the situation and called for comprehensively tackling root causes of the turmoil. “It is not enough to take action against those individuals responsible for terrorist attacks. We should direct our efforts towards the enablers of terrorism,” he said. “It is not enough to rescue people from sinking boats. We should direct our efforts against human traffickers.” Instead of only focusing on financial support to economic migrants, Anastasiades called for improving socioeconomic conditions in their home countries.

Tackling natural gas discoveries in Cypriot waters, the president said his government’s goal was to find the best ways to serve the interests of his people, while at the same time continuing talks with other countries on means to maximise the benefits. Anastasiades said he views regional gas pipelines as the preferred monetisation option for these discoveries, particularly from the Aphrodite gas field south of the Mediterranean island.

Cypriot officials interviewed by The Jordan Times in Nicosia said their country now plans to export gas to Egypt to enable it to meet its domestic needs while also supplying gas to two liquefied natural gas plants based in the North African country for re-export purposes. They said Jordan can be one of the importers of Cypriot gas, but that it was up to officials from both sides to discuss details of any such deals, mainly means of delivery. They expressed optimism about more discoveries in Cypriot waters, noting that the exploration process “is only beginning”.

But the Cypriot president told The Jordan Times and Al Rai that he does not see gas revenues as the solution to economic problems, which Cyprus has been countering over the past years with great success. “We don’t see natural gas revenues as the solution to economic problems. We cannot afford to be short-sighted,” he said. “We are currently considering the creation of the necessary mechanisms which will allow this and future generations of Cypriot citizens to benefit from the natural gas revenues.”