Britain-Cyprus bilateral ties are stronger than ever as they strengthen traditional relations in education, defence and culture, said visiting UK House of Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
“Our relations with Cyprus are as strong as ever, underpinned by a wealth of personal, professional and institutional connections and a shared history,” said Hoyle in his speech to the Cypriot Parliament Tuesday.
“We are good and valued friends,” he added during the first official trip of a serving UK parliamentary speaker.
Although a sometimes fractious relationship, Nicosia and London have looked to upgrade relations post-Brexit.
British tourists are the main source of visitors to the east Mediterranean island’s key tourism industry, while the UK maintains two strategic military bases on Cyprus.
The formal colonial ruler is also a guarantor for the island’s sovereignty agreed as part of Cyprus’ 1960 independence.
“Our close people-to-people links are underlined by the fact that 300,000 Cypriots live in the United Kingdom and 50,000 or more Brits have made Cyprus their home,” said Hoyle.
Cyprus is a popular holiday destination for Britons, with more than a million UK holidaymakers visiting each year (pre-coronavirus) – more than a third of all tourist arrivals.
“And we look forward to ever-more Brits returning to Cyprus for much-needed holidays after a long and difficult pandemic.”
Hoyle also highlighted education’s role in reinforcing “very strong links”.
“It is notable that five out of seven Cypriot presidents – including current President Nicos Anastasiades – studied in the UK, as did over half the current Cabinet.”
Despite Brexit, the UK is still a top destination for Cypriot students studying abroad.
Hoyle said the UK-Cyprus defence partnership is another “important area that continues to flourish”.
The countries signed a defence MoU in 2019 and “refreshed annually in a Bilateral Defence Cooperation Programme that becomes more ambitious year on year”.
Last year Cyprus hosted the Royal Navy’s largest and most powerful ever warship HMS Queen Elizabeth, as part of the global Carrier Strike Group deployment in the East Mediterranean.
“I have every confidence this relationship and friendship will continue into the future.”
The parliamentarian said the UK maintains “unwavering support” for reunifying the divided island in line with the UN Security Council’s parameters of a Bizonal, Bicommunal Federation.
Cyprus peace talks to reunify the island since a 1974 Turkish invasion split it in two have remained deadlocked since 2017.