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Leaders announce strengthened relations between Cyprus, Egypt and Greece (Update 3)

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and President Nicos Anastasides in Athens on Wednesday

By Jean Christou
Cyprus, Egypt and Greece agreed in Athens on Wednesday to create a permanent mechanism for cooperation that involves meeting more regularly, it was announced after the third tripartite meeting between the three countries.
In a lengthy joint statement that covered developments in a number of counties in the region including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, the three leaders said they were cognisant of the immense challenges to the stability, security and prosperity of the Eastern Mediterranean and the need for a “concerted and collective response”.
On these grounds, they had agreed to solidify the foundations of their tripartite cooperation in the years to come, building on the significant progress achieved so far.
“We remain convinced of the strategic nature of this trilateral cooperation and we will continue to work closely towards the fullest exploitation of its potential, to the benefit of our peoples and the wider region,” the joint declaration titled ‘The Athens Declaration’ said.
“In this regard, we have decided to establish a standing Joint Committee of Cooperation which will develop, formulate and promote practical project of trilateral interest.”
In statements to the press, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said: “Our tripartite cooperation is a pillar of peace and stability and transmits this message to the region.
He said the next such meeting would take place in Cairo. He did not give a date but he said consultations would be accelerated on issues such as the delimitation of maritime zones between the three countries under international law.
President Nicos Anastasiades said the common understanding was that the discovery of significant reserves of hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean – including the recent discovery of huge deposits in the Egyptian Zohr field – should act as a catalyst for wider regional cooperation “thus contributing to prosperity and stability of the countries of the region”
He added that natural resources should be a source of cooperation rather than friction.
“The goal is not to exclude anyone, and our cooperation is not directed against anyone,” he said.
The joint declaration, referring to the same topic and in an indirect reference to Turkey, said the objective of using hydrocarbons as a catalyst for peace “would be better served through the adherence by the countries of the region to well established principles of international law” meaning the UN Law of the Sea Convention, to which Turkey is not a signatory.
Anastasiades said they had also examined the prospect of creating a joint ‘blue economy’, encompassing, among others, maritime transport, research, technology and innovation, maritime and coastal tourism, education and marine environment .
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi spoke of “practical steps” that were discussed for activating the trilateral cooperation in many sectors, not just energy but in tourism, shipping and investment.
With the involvement of both state and private actors, the three agreed to develop joint tourism packages and cruises, and to enhance their maritime connections for the transfer of both cargo and passengers.
“The tripartite meeting proves the tenacity of all of us to continue our course to ensure progress and development and is a symbol of our unwavering commitment to joint cooperation based on a shared vision to ensure security and stability in the region,” he said.
The three countries also agreed on the need for the European Union to support Egypt politically and economically, including in its fight against terrorism. Terrorism formed a substantial part of the discussions and Anastasiades, Sisi and Tsipras underlined their “full support to the comprehensive, collective and focused action of the international community” in this respect.
They called on all states to step up cooperation on security, including the upping of measures to end the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and to counter Islamic State propaganda, as well as to disrupt the provision of financial and military support to such groups.
The three leaders also addressed the migrant crisis and pledged to “exert every effort to prevent… any further loss of life at sea, in cooperation with the countries of origin and transit, and to combat the activities of smugglers”.
Cyprus also made it on to the declaration, which called for “a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement” based on international law, and relevant UN resolutions, and based on the respect of democratic principles and the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots.

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