The trilateral co-operation among Cyprus, Greece and Egypt in the defence sector signals the strengthening of efforts to address common challenges, stated the defence minister of the Republic of Cyprus, Christoforos Fokaides, after the end of the three-party meeting with his counterparts from Greece, Panos Kammenos, and Egypt, Sedki Sobhy, at the “Zenon” Coordinating Center in Larnaca.
According to the defence ministry of the Republic of Cyprus, regional co-operation on security issues in the Eastern Mediterranean region, particularly maritime and energy security issues, countering terrorism, illegal immigration and new asymmetric threats, were among the issues that were discussed.
Decisions have also been made on a joint military cooperation programme, in the context of exercises and common training.
The three ministers have decided to give a permanent character to the tripartite meeting, which will take place at least once a year, while a Coordination Committee was established to coordinate the implementation of the decisions taken.
The Cypriot defense minister said that the tripartite cooperation between Cyprus, Egypt and Greece is an extremely important regional initiative that has already given fruit in a number of sectors, from economy, energy and tourism to health and agriculture.
Fokaides said it is common belief that in an environment of geopolitical instability and uncertainty, there should be the greatest possible cooperation between the states that share common concerns and common expectations for a future of security, stability and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“We are investing the best possible co-operation to cope with new threats, such as terrorist violence and illegal trafficking of migrants and arms.
To create maritime and energy security conditions. The Eastern Mediterranean has always been the main crossroads for shipping and international trade.
Today, however, it can also become a catalyst for the development and economic progress of the peoples of the region, through the cooperation for the exploitation of the Eastern Mediterranean energy wealth, which at the same time is of paramount importance as an alternative source of energy for Europe as well”, he said.
Fokaides continued saying that decisions were also made to strengthen common education and joint exercises, as well as joint programmes “in order to be able to contribute jointly to tackling common challenges, such as maritime and energy security and the issue of information exchange, which is extremely important in the fight against terrorism”.
Greek defense minister Panos Kammenos pointed out that the first exercises that took place in the last two years, such as the Medusa exercise a few days ago in Rhodes, with a beach landing and the participation of a large naval force from the part of Egypt, and the close cooperation of the Greek Armed Forces, the Air Force of Greece and Egypt, with the participation of observers from the Republic of Cyprus, the United States of America, Italy and other countries, showed that we can have a common military behaviour where it will be needed.
Kammenos said that energy policy requires security and that Cyprus is a hub that unites Africa and the Middle East with Europe and Greece, a node joining Southeast Europe with Central Europe.
He added that the leader of the Arab world, Egypt, cannot be absent from the drafting of this energy policy, as is the country of contact of the “silk road” to Europe and the North.
“Defense cooperation between our countries and the definition of the EEZ will be able to ensure in this very sensitive maritime area between Suez, Cyprus, Crete and Malta a zone, in which there will be no drug and arms trafficking that will be used to fund terrorism.
It can be a zone of stability where traffickers will not be able to traffic human souls by exploiting pain and war.
The defence cooperation will ensure free navigation and energy”, Kammenos said.
On his part, Egyptian defence minister, Sedki Sobhi, said the talks have confirmed the deep and common military relations of the three countries that have been established for several decades as a result of the continuous efforts of the leaders of Cyprus – Greece – Egypt.
Egypt’s defence minister said the threats of terrorism and extremism have grown and have turned into a global phenomenon that no country can avoid, especially in view of the return of terrorists to their homelands after their defeat in Syria and Iraq. It is necessary, he added, to prevent their movement and to neutralise their means of funding and acquiring equipment.
He also said that cooperation between Egypt, Cyprus and Greece on illegal immigration, smuggling and obstruction of terrorists’ movements, as well as the safeguarding of energy investments in the Eastern Mediterranean and maritime shipping routes, is required.
Sobhi referred to the decision on joint exercises and training, exchanges of expertise, research and rescue exercises, concurrent efforts in the field of information exchange, in order to achieve timely and effective action against these threats, and alignment of efforts to capacity building, in order to address the challenges in Eastern Mediterranean./IBNA