By Elias Hazou
CYPRUS, Egypt and Greece on Wednesday signed the ‘Nicosia Declaration’, a framework agreement to further economic cooperation and solidify their three-way emerging political alliance.
“This 2nd Trilateral Summit further strengthens our well-established tripartite partnership promoting peace, stability, security and prosperity and cooperation in all fields in the eastern Mediterranean – political, economic, trade, culture, tourism,” the document read.
The accord, coming some five months after the ‘Cairo Declaration’, was concluded at the Presidential Palace by President Nicos Anastasiades, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Preceding the signing were two-way talks between the leaders and their respective delegations, followed by a tripartite summit of the heads of the state.
The three leaders later held a joint news conference.
“The dialogue and cooperation among the three nations is not directed at any third country,” Anastasiades said in his remarks, evidently alluding to Turkey.
“To the contrary, it is a model for similar cooperation with all the nations of the region,” he added.
The three countries agreed to enhance cooperation on both the economic and political levels, and to coordinate on issues of mutual interest in international forums of which they are members.
Among others, the leaders discussed the Cyprus problem, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and expressed concern over the rise of terrorism and extremist groups such as the Islamic State in the Middle East region and Africa.
According to the Nicosia Declaration, the nations agreed “to step up cooperation on counter-terrorism, defence/security and discussing relevant information to jointly combat against terrorism and violent extremism and to promote regional security, long-term stability and prosperity.”
As expected, energy featured prominently in the talks, with Anastasiades keen to emphasise that exploitation of natural resources did not have to be a zero-sum game.
“We recognise that the discovery of important hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean can serve as a catalyst for regional cooperation,” he said.
Although the three nations did not announce impending agreements on delimiting their respective exclusive economic zones – a development that would impact Turkey, which has its own claims in the eastern Mediterranean – they said talks between them would continue.
“We stress that this cooperation would be better served through the adherence by the countries of the region to well established principles of international law. In this respect, we emphasise the universal character of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, and decide to proceed expeditiously with our negotiations on the delimitation of our maritime zones, where it is not yet done.”
Whereas Cyprus and Egypt have delineated their respective EEZs, Cyprus and Greece, and Egypt and Greece, have not.
For his part, speaking through an interpreter, Egyptian leader al-Sisi said the tripartite agreements are aimed at making the participating nations “the natural gateway for boosting cooperation between Africa and Europe.”
Greek premier Tsipras expressing satisfaction over the outcome of the Nicosia talks, said the cooperation would continue on a technocratic level.
The Greek leader offered to host a third three-way summit in Athens.
Accompanying al-Sisi on his trip were his ministers of foreign affairs, investments and energy.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the summit, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides revealed that Nicosia and Cairo are poised to conclude a series of commercial deals.
“We should expect in the near future the signing of agreements on matters relating to the economy, shipping, tourism, and of course energy,” he said.
During his one-on-one meeting with Anastasiades, al-Sisi reiterated his country’s “wish” to secure Cypriot natural gas.
According to the spokesman, talks on this are at an advanced stage, “we expect them to wrap up very soon, so that we can proceed to the next phase.”
Energy-hungry Egypt has expressed an interest in purchasing natural gas from Cyprus’ offshore reservoir, known as Aphrodite. The gas would most likely be transported to Egypt via pipeline, although infrastructure plans have yet to be finalised.
Christodoulides said also that Anastasiades intends to visit Jerusalem as soon as the new Israeli government is formed, with a view to preparing the ground for a tripartite summit between Cyprus, Israel and Greece.