The Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria Ekaterina Zaharieva and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides have agreed to work for more mutual investments, for more commercial and economic cooperation, and for expanding bilateral relations in the areas of education, culture and sports.
The two Ministers met as part of Nikos Christodoulides’ official visit to Bulgaria. This year marks 60 years since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and Cyprus.
“Bulgaria and Cyprus are real and good friends. We share many common values, interests and many similar positions in the European Union and in other international organizations”, Ekaterina Zaharieva said.
He stressed the excellent relations between the peoples of Bulgaria and Cyprus. “I would like to thank the people of Cyprus for the fact that our compatriots on the island feel well integrated and constitute a strong bond between our two countries”, Ekaterina Zaharieva said. About 30,000 Bulgarians live in Cyprus, representing the third largest ethnic group in the country.
During the talks, the Foreign Minister emphasized the opportunities for Bulgaria and the region, through the projects being developed by Cyprus in the energy field. “Cyprus is a very important country for Bulgaria to diversify its gas supply and for Europe as a whole. The projects the Bulgarian government is working on – the interconnection with Greece, Bulgaria’s decision to participate in the liquefied gas terminal in Alexandroupolis and your gas fields, and the recently signed agreement between Cyprus, Greece and Israel open up many opportunities regarding energy supply and energy security”, Ekaterina Zaharieva said.
The two sides agreed that more efforts should be made to develop trade contacts. In the period January-June 2019, trade between Bulgaria and Cyprus decreased by 22.7%, compared to the same period in 2018, amounting to EUR 97.9 million. Zaharieva expressed the hope that “the decline we see now in the exchange of goods is only a temporary trend”.
During the meeting, emphasis was placed on the importance of links in the tourism sector and in particular Bulgaria’s excellent winter sports opportunities with mountain resorts. For the first 11 months of 2019, the number of Cypriot tourists in Bulgaria increased by almost 20% compared to the same period in 2018, as 25,402 Cypriot citizens visited Bulgaria. During the same period, 11 730 Bulgarian tourists visited Cyprus.
Within the framework of the common European policy, the two ministers reiterated their support for the European integration of the Western Balkan countries and the faster decision to launch accession talks with the EU for the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania.
Nikos Christodoulides, for his part, had the opportunity to brief the Minister on Cyprus’s initiatives in the Eastern Mediterranean region, which are based on a positive agenda that is exclusively beneficial to all parties, as well as the EU, as they aim to fostering synergies and fostering dialogue and understanding.
Nikos Christodoulides briefed Ekaterina Zaharieva on the latest developments in Turkey’s escalating provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean, with particular reference to the latest illegal drilling carried out by Ankara in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone.
“As we all agreed in Brussels on Monday at the Foreign Affairs Council, we must speed up and complete the work on registering individuals and entities involved in these illegal activities in line with the relevant Council conclusions. I count on Bulgaria’s support in implementing our collective decisions”, the Cypriot FM stated.
Ekaterina Zaharieva and Nikos Christodoulides have agreed to work on signing bilateral co-operation agreements in the fields of culture, education, sports and international relations. They agreed that the two countries’ foreign ministries will signing a memorandum of joint political consultations on important international issues, such as the crisis in the Middle East, Libya and refugee pressure in the region.
“Creating a mechanism for bilateral co-operation will deepen our relations”, Christodoulides said.
The bilateral agreements are expected to be signed during a high-level visit to Nicosia this year, marking the 60th anniversary of our relations./ibna