By Stefanos Evripidou
CYPRUS AND the United States are ready to engage in discussions on strengthening cooperation in the field of maritime security, Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides on Friday.
The minister made the comment after meeting with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for European and NATO Policy James Townsend and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Amanda Sloat.
According to Fokaides, apart from maritime security, the Cypriot and American officials also decided to explore the possibility of cooperating in counterterrorism, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and other asymmetric threats.
Fokaides expressed his gratitude for the high level of cooperation in support of Cypriot initiatives, particularly in the fields of humanitarian operations and search and rescue missions.
The minister said the Cypriot government aimed to strengthen relations with the US on both a bilateral and multilateral level, with the aim of promoting peace, security and stability in the eastern Mediterranean.
Earlier in the day, the American delegation, accompanied by US Ambassador to Cyprus John Koenig, met with President Nicos Anastasiades at the presidential palace, and later Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides at the foreign ministry.
According to the US embassy, the three-day visit, ending today, is part of strategic consultations to deepen bilateral cooperation between the US and Cyprus Republic in areas such as non-proliferation, counterterrorism, and maritime security.
Sloat and Townsend were expected to follow up with Cypriot officials on a range of transatlantic security priorities in the region that were discussed during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Cyprus in May.
According to government sources, the meeting with the president went very well.
“Our relations are not only on the Cyprus problem, they are strategic on all levels, terrorism, energy, WMD, economy, many areas,” said the source, adding that contacts between the two will only increase and strengthen.
The chaotic destruction taking place in the Israel-Palestine conflict was also brought up during the meeting, with Cyprus’ role as a predictable, stable country enjoying good neighbourly relations with all sides (bar Turkey) mentioned.
In a released statement, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said Anastasiades had a telephone conversation with Biden yesterday afternoon. The two discussed issues regarding bilateral relations and of international interest.
During the conversation, Anastasiades expressed satisfaction with the statements made by Biden during a congress of the Greek Orthodox Church in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
Biden told his audience that Turkey should never have sent troops to Cyprus in 1974 without the government requesting them to do so.
Anastasiades and Biden agreed to meet in the near future.
Meanwhile, the government spokesman will leave for Washington on Monday for a five-day visit during which he will meet with two US ministers, two advisers to the president on national security and deputy assistant secretary for energy diplomacy Amos Hochstein.