The first official visit of Portuguese president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa to Cyprus is a turning point in the relations between the two countries, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Saturday.

The two leaders signed a bilateral agreement on the exchange and mutual protection of classified information, showing readiness to enhance the institutional framework of their partnership, the Cypriot president said after their meeting.

The full spectrum of bilateral relations and specific ways to enhance cooperation, particularly in the fields of trade, education, investments, economy and tourism was discussed, Anastasiades said, noting the importance of the visit.

“It is the first ever official visit by a President of the Portuguese Republic to the Republic of Cyprus [which] constitutes a turning point in the relations between our countries,” he said.

“We both agreed to take specific steps that will advance the interaction between the Cypriot and Portuguese business communities, as well as to forge a closer collaboration between our competent tourism authorities and the private sector.”

This aims to achieve an increase in peoples’ flows through establishing direct flights between the two countries, Anastasiades explained.

Discussions also touched on major issues on the European agenda, such as the green transition, Europe’s energy security and the current economic situation.

“I cannot stress enough how important is for the southern countries of the EU to cooperate and support each other to tackle the challenges we are facing,” the Cypriot president said, adding that the group of dialogue, the MED9, can act as a ‘driving force’ within the union by assuming a key role in its future and in advancing our common interests.

Anastasiades told the Portuguese president that Cyprus supports all measures aiming at strengthening energy autonomy and the security of supply of member states and of the union, always taking into account national specificities and industry needs.

However, he added, our decisions should not lead to a situation in which energy companies either redirect their volumes to other countries with high prices or become hesitant to invest in new projects in the EU.

As regards new projects, the president said Cyprus stands ready to assume a significant role and be part of the energy solutions that the Eastern Mediterranean region has to offer with concrete projects.

Two such landmark examples are that of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, which provides an ideal platform through which the EU itself can outreach to promote its energy agenda, as well as the creation of electricity interconnectors, namely the EuroAsia and EuroAfrica, which can enrich the security of energy supply.

Saying that Rebelo de Sousa’s visit is taking place almost eight months after the Russian invasion in Ukraine, the president said this “continues to create devastating humanitarian, energy and food security crises around the world”.

From the very beginning the EU has stood firmly by Ukraine, Anastasiades said, also unequivocally condemning the recent illegal annexation by Russia of four Ukrainian regions which defy the rules-based international order and are contrary to the provisions of the UN Charter.

In his remarks on international law violations, the island’s president reminded that Cyprus is also a victim of such violations and still suffers from the 1974 illegal Turkish invasion and the continued occupation of one third of the Republic of Cyprus.

Hence, “we expect our partners to demonstrate the same decisiveness and unity enforcing international law on the Cyprus issues and in safeguarding our sovereignty and sovereign rights.”

This all the more applicable following Turkey’s unacceptable position in favour of a two – state solution or its ongoing violations on the sea and at ground, the president said, reiterating his determination to find a solution.

“I will continue undertaking initiatives to break the current impasse,” Anastasiades said, thanking Portugal for its continued support in the efforts to reunify Cyprus and its people.

He also expressed the belief that the confidence building measures he proposed can contribute to establishing a conducive environment that will positively support our efforts in resuming the process “provided that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side positively respond and refrain from raising tensions”.