By Stefanos Evripidou
FOREIGN MINISTER Ioannis Kasoulides on Tuesday met with Japan’s Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Takao Makino in Nicosia to discuss a range of issues from the Cyprus problem to regional developments, energy issues and EU-Japan relations.
Speaking after the meeting, Makino said Japan supports President Nicos Anastasiades’ efforts for a peaceful solution on the island.
Kasoulides said the Japanese official’s visit to Cyprus “constitutes tangible proof of our joint commitment to strengthening our bilateral relations”. The visit “acquires particular importance given Japan’s economic and political clout, not only in Asia but the entire world”, he added.
The two discussed ways to enhance bilateral collaboration in various sectors, including investment, science, education, student exchanges, tourism and crisis management.
They also discussed issues concerning Cyprus` Exclusive Economic Zone and the need to adhere to international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Asked whether they discussed possible investments in the energy sector, Kasoulides said the two officials agreed that “both governments will encourage the private sector to show interest in investments”.
In response to a question on whether Japan has expressed an interest in buying Cypriot natural gas, Makino, speaking through an interpreter, said: “I think that we have not reached a point that we can discuss this issue.”
The two also discussed the upcoming Asia-Europe Summit that will take place in Milan in October and the ongoing negotiations between the EU and Japan for a free trade and strategic partnership agreement.
“We are hopeful that 2015 may be the year when these negotiations will be concluded,” Kasoulides said.
During a working lunch, the two delegations discussed developments in Asia and the Middle East region. Later in the day, the Japanese official was due to meet with Greek Cypriot negotiator in the peace talks Andreas Mavroyiannis and UN Special Representative in Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim.
Makino departs Cyprus today.
Meanwhile, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides yesterday confirmed that Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and incoming European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker discussed the Cyprus problem during the latter’s visit to Athens on Monday.
The spokesman noted that the EU is slowly recognising the need for greater EU involvement in the peace talks, and for two main reasons: first, the Republic of Cyprus will continue to be an EU member state after a solution; and second, the terms of the solution will impact upon the functioning of the EU itself, in terms of its decision-making mechanisms.
A possible problematic reunified state will cause problems within the EU, hence the increased interest of Brussels in the type of solution that is negotiated.
In response to a comment by public broadcaster CyBC that a solution which makes Cyprus a “Turkish protectorate” will give non-member Turkey a role in the EU, Christodoulides said this is a concern raised in various EU capitals, leading Brussels to seek a greater involvement in the talks to ensure any solution is compatible with the EU acquis.
By Stefanos Evripidou