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Cyprus

Naval base buzz builds as French ambassador visits Mari

French ambassador to Cyprus Rene Troccaz has visited the Mari naval base on the back of reports that Paris in interested in acquiring permanent naval facilities on the island.

On Monday Troccaz visited both Mari outside Limassol as well as the Andreas Papandreou airbase in Paphos.

He later tweeted: “Prospects for cooperation on equal terms between Cyprus and France/Very interesting visit @troccazrene to Mari + ‘Andreas Papandreou’ air base in Paphos/ Warm welcome/ @DefenceCyprus.”

The ambassador’s visit to Mari comes on the heels of media reports that France is keen on establishing a permanent naval presence in Cyprus.

The reports picked up last week following the visit to the island of French president Emmanuel Macron, who attended the Med-7 summit.

Macron spoke of Cyprus’ “strategic role” in the Mediterranean.

For the time being, the government has declined to comment, saying only that announcements on the matter would be made shortly.

Former foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides was far more forthcoming. Speaking to a local radio station, he appeared to confirm that the defence ministry plans to build a naval station at the location of the Evangelos Florakis (Mari) naval base.

Currently the facility has limited docking capabilities. It cannot accommodate larger vessels like frigates.

According to Kasoulides, the idea is for the French to co-finance the mooted naval station.

However, he stressed, it would not be a French base per se, but rather a Cypriot one from which facilities would be provided to the French navy.

In October 2016 Nicosia and Paris signed the Franco-Cypriot Strategic Agenda, covering security and defence, as well as economic, educational and cultural cooperation.

Officials have been tight-lipped about the details.

On Tuesday the French ambassador met Nicolas Papadopoulos, leader of the Diko party.
Papadopoulos congratulated Troccaz on Macron’s “geostrategic vision” regarding security in the southeast Mediterranean, and welcomed the growing relationship between the two countries in the energy and defence sectors.

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