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Cyprus, Greece, Egypt pledge stronger defence ties

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Cyprus, Greece, and Egypt have pledged closer military cooperation as regional threats grow and invite more countries to participate in joint manoeuvres to build strong alliances.

“The emergence of new security challenges and threats in our region requires joint threat assessment and closer cooperation among the three countries to protect their common interests and reinforce their cooperation in the defence domain,” a joint statement said Wednesday.

Cypriot Defence Minister Charalambos Petrides hosted his Greek and Egyptian counterparts, Nikos Panagiotopoulos and General Mohamed Zaki, in Nicosia as part of trilateral meetings to boost cooperation between the three countries.

“We also agreed to further develop our now firmly established cooperation and thus sending clear and strong messages, as well as looking into the possibility of expanding it … through the inclusion of other countries,” Panagiotopoulos said.

Earlier this year, France and the United Arab Emirates took part in joint manoeuvres with the three countries for the first time.

Zaki said the three ministers discussed better coordinating actions to counter threats that emanate from the wider region, such as terrorism, illegal migration, and illegal trafficking.

Defence has become a key part of an alliance built between Cyprus, Greece and Egypt based on shared interests in eastern Mediterranean energy exploitation.

Egypt shares maritime borders with both Greek and Cyprus.

Nicosia has licensed energy companies Total of France, Italy’s Eni, and America’s ExxonMobil to search for gas deposits offshore Cyprus.

That search has stoked tensions with neighbouring Turkey, which doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state and disputes those rights.

Turkey had sent warship-escorted drillships and research vessels to look for natural gas inside waters where Cyprus and Greece claim exclusive rights.

Petrides and Panagotopoulos rejected Turkey’s “illegal, provocative and unilateral” actions inside Greek and Cypriot waters that contravene international law and undermine regional stability.

In a joint statement, the ministers condemned “actions that violate the sovereign rights, territorial integrity and unity of any country” and respect international law.

Petrides said ministers reviewed their cooperation in defence and security and agreed to enhance joint exercises and training.

The next Trilateral Defence Ministers’ meeting will be in Egypt in 2022.