The Earl and Countess of Wessex, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie arrived in Cyprus on Monday to start their visit to the island and the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia between Monday June 20 and Wednesday June 22.

President Nicos Anastasiades welcomed the Royal couple during his address at a reception hosted by the British High Commissioner to Cyprus, Stephen Lillie to mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee on Monday.

I have no doubt that your visit will be pleasant, but most importantly productive in contributing to further advancing the historic ties of friendship between Cyprus and the United Kingdom. To this end, I look forward to the meeting we will hold tomorrow that will allow us to discuss the broad range of issues that bind our peoples and countries together,” Anastasiades said.

Anastasiades and his wife Andri, arrived at the British High Commissioner’s residence at around 7.15pm where they were welcomed by the Earl and Countess of Wessex and the High Commissioner, Stephen Lilly. They then sat down for a private meeting and the ceremonial part of the evening began immediately after the national anthems of the United Kingdom and Cyprus.

Present at the reception were, among others, Disy President Averof Neophytou and his wife, Nicosia Mayor, Constantinos Yiorkadjis, ambassadors of foreign countries and members of bi-communal technical committees.

Last week, the British High Commission announced that during their visit, their Royal Highnesses will celebrate the ties of friendship between the United Kingdom and Cyprus, as fellow member states of the Commonwealth, and show support for the British Armed Forces based overseas.

Cyprus is particularly proud of our diaspora permanently residing in the UK, constituting the largest Cypriot community overseas, with many Cypriots receiving honours by Her Majesty the Queen for their services in fields such as education, arts, culture, sciences and business,” Anastasiades added.

Anastasiades also noted that the UK is a favourite destination for thousands of Cypriot students when it comes to university study, while Cyprus is the preferred holiday destination for most Britons.

Moreover, it is a well-known fact that our relationship extends far beyond the above-mentioned areas and covers a wide spectrum of policy areas, with our economic, trade, business and investment relationship constituting a fundamental pillar of our partnership. A partnership which continues to expand as most evident by last month’s historic and groundbreaking agreement that will enable thousands of Cypriots to develop for the first time their properties in the British base areas, with multiple benefits to the economy and the society at an especially difficult economic period,” he emphasised.

The Earl of Wessex said it was a “very great pleasure” to be in Cyprus, and a very important time to be on the island, both for the Queen’s birthday celebrations and to learn more about this “wonderful island, the history and the people of Cyprus”.

In addition, he said they want to learn about the many ties between the two countries “and what makes this relationship so special.”

Prince Edward also said they are interested in discussing the future and “how we can help each other in the future, and what the options and challenges are.”

“What we have all discovered in recent years, in this very uncertain and volatile world, is that friends really do matter and it is a pleasure to be here. We certainly came to Cyprus as friends and I hope that Cyprus sees Britain as a good friend,” he said.

In addition, he said that although their visit will be short – until Wednesday – they have a very busy schedule.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex will be received by Anastasiades and the First Lady at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday morning.

The British High Commission noted in its announcement that the Earl and Countess will recognise the UK’s contribution to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (Unficyp), visit the UN Buffer Zone and hear more about the wider UN mission in Cyprus.

On the political and diplomatic fields, our synergies have also been characterised as one of constant evolution, based on various collaborations on a wide range of issues, both bilaterally and multilaterally, including within the EU up until Brexit, but, particularly within the Commonwealth,” Anastasiades continued.

Meanwhile, the Countess of Wessex, who is a strong supporter of the UN’s Women, Peace and Security agenda, is scheduled to meet a diverse range of women and young people from across the island, including the Cypriot members of the Women Mediators Across the Commonwealth network and participants in the UN and British Council ‘Young Leaders in Action’ programme, to hear more about civil society’s contribution to peace and community building in Cyprus.

The Earl will also meet students from across the island who are working towards their Bronze, Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex will meet British Armed Forces and their families currently based at the Sovereign Base Areas, and will learn more about their roles and contributions to current operations, the announcement said.