Cypriot Foreign Minister to Asharq Al-Awsat: Turkey is Fueling Libya Conflict
Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides stressed that Turkey’s military intervention in Libya was a cause for great concern, warning that it is stabilizing an already turbulent situation.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said the meddling will have dangerous repercussions on Libyan, regional and European security.
Ankara’s decision to send troops to Libya in support of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord only adds fuel to the fire and undermines the international community’s efforts to reach a peaceful solution, continued the minister.
He expressed Cyprus’ alarm over the growing evidence of the deployment of Syrian and foreign terrorist mercenaries in Tripoli.
The United Nations and last month’s Berlin conference on Libya highlighted the foreign meddling and the blatant and systematic violation of the UN arms embargo against the North African country, Christodoulides added. They were singled out as the greatest obstacles hindering the political process.
He slammed in this regard ongoing statements from Turkey about the deployment of forces in Libya, saying that they are only stoking the conflict and hampering international peace efforts.
Asked about the challenges Cyprus is facing, the minister replied that it was coping with the effects of a financial crisis. Moreover, it should have confronted the illegal migrants crisis in a way that matches its size and resources.
Despite its limited means and infrastructure, he continued, Cyprus managed to respect its commitments and protect those in need in line with international law.
He revealed that Cyprus received 12,900 asylum requests in 2019. More than half of the applicants had arrived from Turkey in areas that are not effectively controlled by the Cypriot republic.
In other words, they crossed the demarcation line on the island, he explained. Most of these applicants do not meet the international criteria, but are being extorted by Turkey to obtain political concessions from the European Union, Christodoulides told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Turkey’s foreign policy with its neighbors lacks the basic amount of respect of international law and Ankara is only aggravating problems, he charged.
Turning to relations with Saudi Arabia, Christodoulides said Cyprus was committed to bolstering relations with Riyadh on bilateral and multilateral levels,
He cited his recent visit to the Kingdom where he met with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz, saying it was an important step in boosting bilateral relations.
He noted that relations have made leaps in the past two years as demonstrated in the appointment of the first Saudi ambassador to Cyprus. This is an important step in boosting existing bonds of friendship between the two countries.
Double taxation and aviation agreements also went into effect, he revealed, saying they provide the legal framework for moving forward in expanding Saudi-Cypriot relations.
His discussions in Riyadh tackled possible cooperation in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. Christodoulides also noted the massive untapped potential in the political, economic, security, military and defense fields.
Discussions also focused on regional developments and efforts to boost joint work between Cyprus and Saudi Arabia in order to confront pressing challenges and boost regional security and stability.
Moreover, he predicted that trade and investment between the two countries is set to gradually increase. He revealed that direct foreign investment in Cyprus has targeted the banking, marine transport, real estate and energy sectors. He added that Saudi businesses were keen on seizing trade and investment opportunities Nicosia and Riyadh have to offer.
Saudi tourists were also on the rise in Cyprus, said the minister. More than 4,000 visited the island in 2019 and direct flights between Riyadh and Larnaca may be resumed to offer Saudi and Cypriot investors and tourists better options.