DIPLOMACY: Cyprus and Saudi Arabia determined to build a new alliance

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Cyprus and Saudi Arabia are looking to strengthen bilateral ties on all fronts as symbolised by the first visit to Nicosia of a foreign minister from the kingdom.

Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf is the first Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be paying an official visit to Cyprus.

“I see a high interest in developing this relationship in all fronts,” he told reporters after meeting his Cypriot counterpart.

“We need to take advantage of many elements that bring us together like the geographic location, the history of the relationship between Cyprus and the Arab world and the economic issues."

Cypriot foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides said the visit is “testament of the joint political will and commitment of Cyprus and Saudi Arabia to concretely upgrade our relations”.

The first resident Ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Cyprus also presented his credentials last week.

Nicosia has focused on enhancing and expanding relations with its neighbouring Middle East and Gulf countries.

This is why President Nicos Anastasiades was the first Cyprus president to visit Saudi Arabia in January 2018.

“Some important steps have already been taken with the entering into force of the Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Air Services Agreement, two very important instruments that pave the way forward in our bilateral relations,” said Christodoulides.

He said there was “immense untapped potential” in the political, economic, energy, security, military and defence fields that needs to be explored.

“We have been sketching a roadmap, identifying priorities on the way forward.”

“We both agreed that we need to work together to boost people to people contacts and to concentrate on the sectors of tourism and investment.”

Christodoulides said the two countries were ready to proceed with the facilitation of bilateral business forums within the framework of their Economic Diplomacy programme.

“It was evident throughout our discussions that there is a shared understanding that together we can address common challenges – from terrorism, to the rise of extremism, to climate change – more effectively.”

The Saudi minister was also briefed on the trilateral cooperation mechanisms Cyprus and Greece have established with countries in the region, including Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

“Their common denominator is a shared vision for a future of peace, stability and prosperity in our region. They are inclusive and exclude no one who shares their vision and respects the core principles on which they are based,” said Christodoulides.

Also discussed were EU-Saudi relations.

“Cyprus will continue to actively advocate in Brussels for their meaningful and multi-dimensional enhancement.”

Christodoulides also pointed out that support from Saudi Arabia was “indispensable” when taking into consideration the “illegal activities and aggressive behaviour of Turkey” in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.

“We are determined to take advantage of the opportunities that our two counties offer,” the Saudi Foreign Minister said.