Cyprus Mail

Defence minister in first official visit to the UK

Cyprus and the United Kingdom signed a bilateral military cooperation programme on Tuesday, after Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides met his counterpart Michael Fallon.

This is the first official visit of any defence minister from Cyprus to the UK and followed an invitation extended by Fallon.

The agreement concerns military cooperation in terms of operations as well as training and education in both Cyprus and the UK. Cypriot officials will be able to study and follow seminars in the Royal College of Defence studies in London.

Fokaides and Fallon first had a private meeting lasting just over an hour where, according to a government announcement, they discussed “the current situation in the wider region of the South-Eastern Mediterranean, the evolving geopolitical environment, maritime and energy security, cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism, new asymmetric threats, the migration crisis and the developments on the Cyprus problem.”

Fallon thanked Fokaides for Cyprus’ contribution in combating terrorism threats and the cooperation between the countries when over 100 migrants arrived at the Akrotiri British bases in October.

Expressing his wishes for a re-united Cyprus as soon as possible, even in 2016, Fallon said the development would enhance potential in the wider area and broaden Cyprus’ cooperation with the international community.

Fokaides was accompanied by his ministry’s general secretary Christos Malikkides and high ranking officers in the ministry.

After their private meeting, delegations from both the Cypriot and British ministry met.

On Monday, when Fokaides arrived, he met Penny Mordaunt, the UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces at the MoD in a working dinner where they discussed military cooperation and the situation in the region.

She had met Fokaides during her visit to the island in July.

The Cypriot defence minister also visited the British Military Headquarters and the Naval Operations Centre at the base in Northwood outside London.

He was due to tour the base and meet General Sir Richard Lawson Barrons, heading the Joint Forces Command and other high ranking British army officials for an information session on how the headquarters operate.

Fokaides’ visit will come to a close on Wednesday. In the morning he will meet Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain Gregorios and in the evening will attend a dinner held in his honour by the UK’s national Cyprus Federation.

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