President Nikos Christodoulides on Friday expressed the conviction that France would continue to be Cyprus’ solid partner to efforts to reunify the country, for the benefit of all Cypriots.

In his address at the reception held by the Ambassador of France on the occasion of the anniversary of Bastille Day, President Christodoulides noted that France, is “a valuable friend of Cyprus”.

French Ambassador Salina Grenet-Catalano expressed France’s support as regards efforts to return to the negotiating table for a fair and lasting solution to the Cyprus issue, noting that talks should resume without preconditions, under the auspices of the United Nations, within the framework of Security Council resolutions and with the critical support of the EU.

In his address President Christodoulides, noted “the excellent level” of the two countries’ bilateral relations and close cooperation, which, in recent years, he said, were witnessing a dynamic and steady growth, as reflected in the Strategic Agenda signed in 2016.

He said that his recent visit to France, just a few weeks after taking office, and his meeting with President Macron, whom he called “a true friend of Cyprus”, attest to the fact “that our relations with France have become even closer and more enduring in recent years”. He added that with Macron, they had the opportunity to reiterate their common commitment to promote bilateral relations and discussed several ways to achieve this goal particularly in the areas of economy, energy, defence, security, and education.

He also said that the participation of energy company TOTAL in the exploration of hydrocarbon deposits in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus as well as the expansion of the French Cypriot School in Limassol since last September and Cyprus’ participation in the International Organisation of “La Francophonie” as a full member, were “speaking examples of this close cooperation between our two countries”.

President Christodoulides also said that, one of the main pillars of this cooperation was defence and security where Cyprus and France constitute strategic partners. “Our countries participate in joint exercises, while France is Cyprus’ leading defence capabilities provider”, he said, adding that, at the same time, the Republic of Cyprus continues to welcome French airship landings and warship port calls to its facilities. “In these turbulent times, our enhanced security and defence cooperation is an essential part of our policy and it is constantly evolving, both in the region and within the EU,” he noted.

He also said that France was also one of Cyprus’ closest partners within the European Union “and together we take steps towards a reinforced EU strategic autonomy, for a more geopolitical Union that has a leading role in the world”.

As regards the Cyprus problem, he expressed Cyprus’ gratitude “once again” to France for the solidarity and the constant and firm support towards Cyprus in efforts to reach a just settlement of the Cyprus problem, on the basis of bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, in line with the relevant Security Council Resolutions. “We also deeply appreciate the leading role of France in the recent consultations at the Security Council,” he said.

He also said that, as he has stated in his meetings with President Macron as well as with other European leaders, the Cyprus problem was European “and as such, de facto, the EU has a significant role to play”. “This underpins my proposal for the EU to assume an even more active role in facilitating and complementing the work of the UN, at all stages, including at the current stage where efforts focus on breaking the deadlock and returning to the negotiating table always under the auspices of the Good Offices of the UN Secretary General”, he added.

Addressing the Ambassador, President Christodoulides said that, France “has proven, time and again, to be a valuable friend to Cyprus especially in difficult times”, and expressed certainty that this support would continue, “and France will be a solid partner in our vision to reunify our country, for the benefit of all Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Greek Cypriots, Maronites, Armenian, Latins”.

In her speech, Grenet-Catalano, expressed France’s support to President Christodoulides as regards efforts for a return to the negotiations table for a fair and lasting settlement to the Cyprus issue. “Cyprus is too small to be divided”, she said, adding that they were “deeply convinced” that an efficient federal model, where decision-making is shared according to the principle of political equality, was the only way forward.

Talks under the auspices of the United Nations should restart without setting preconditions, and within the framework of Security Council resolutions and with the critical support of the EU, the Ambassador said. She also stressed that, in this critical period, as she said, it was “especially important” for all those involved, to refrain from any provocative action or fait accompli that might threaten the prospect of talks.

Addressing President Christodoulides, she said that, there are still many uncertainties “but, like you, we are looking forward to a new dynamic and to a new result-oriented process”. “You can count on France to assist, as much as it can, hoping that fraternity will prevail here in Cyprus and to the benefit of our Europe”, she added.

The Ambassador also stressed “the excellence” of the two countries’ bilateral relationship and partnership which strengthens every single day, as she noted. She said this was clear in the field of defence and security, “where our two countries share the desire to ensure European strategic autonomy”. The French sailors continue to appreciate the hospitality of Cypriot ports, while cooperation is expanding in new fields, she said, adding that President Christodoulides would be invited in September to embark on the French command ship for the annual “EUNOMIA” military drill involving Cyprus, France, Greece and Italy.

Cultural and education ties are growing, she added, especially through the widespread teaching of the French language in the public education system. The Ambassador also noted that the French-Cypriot school continues to grow, while studies in France were becoming popular among Cypriots.

Grenet-Catalano also noted that economic opportunities were also growing, with French products being more and more available across Cyprus while major investments have been made in the country by French companies.