On 9th and 10th November 2023, the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Nikos Christodoulides, co-chaired the 1st Intergovernmental Summit between the two countries, on the basis of the relevant decision taken during previous meetings of the two leaders this year.
The 1st Intergovernmental Session was attended by the Ministers and Deputy Ministers of the two countries responsible for Foreign Policy, Defence, Education, Health, Energy, Citizen Protection, Culture, Immigration and Asylum, Shipping, Civil Protection and coordination of government work.
The Prime Minister of Greece and the President of the Republic of Cyprus confirmed that the establishment of the Intergovernmental Summits, indicative of the inextricable tie between the two countries, contributes to ensuring stability and prosperity in the wider Eastern Mediterranean region. Furthermore, it provides an appropriate framework for further strengthening bilateral cooperation between Greece and Cyprus.
The work of the Intergovernmental Summit focused on the latest developments in the Cyprus problem. The two leaders reaffirmed that there can be no solution to the Cyprus problem without a complete withdrawal of Turkish occupying troops from Cyprus. They stressed that the solution must be based on the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions. In this context, they expressed their expectation for the appointment of a new UN Secretary-General’s (UNSG) Envoy for Cyprus to explore the prospects for the resumption of negotiations, always within the framework of the relevant UNSC Resolutions. They reiterated, in this context, the need to take initiatives to implement the European Council Conclusions of 30 June 2023, with the objective of the EU playing an active role at all stages of the process. They agreed on the need for significant steps to be taken and goodwill to be shown on the part of Turkey in the context of the Cyprus issue, in order to allow for any progress in the Euro-Turkish issue.
On sectoral issues and in particular in the energy sector, the strategic importance of cooperation between Greece and Cyprus was reaffirmed, aiming at energy sufficiency and diversification at regional and European level, as well as the interconnection of Europe with the Middle East and Asia, through the Eastern Mediterranean. Emphasis was placed, inter alia, on the implementation of the flagship EuroAsia Interconnector electricity interconnection project, which was undertaken by the Independent Power Transmission Operator (IPTO) as the Implementing Agency, on the support of the EastMed Pipeline project as well as on Greece’s forthcoming presidency of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum in early 2024.
In the field of Education, it was decided to further strengthen cooperation between the two countries in the field of school and higher education. In this context, a revised programme of cooperation in the field of Education will be signed before the end of the year. The two countries will also encourage the development of cooperation aimed at strengthening inter-religious dialogue, mutual respect and the fight against intolerance and prejudice.
On issues related to the Health sector, the content of agreements concerning kidney transplants and the allocation of organs in Greece for the transplantation of Cypriots in Greece was discussed, with a view to signing them at a later stage. It was also decided to strengthen cooperation in the field of medicines, the training of medical specialists and the exchange of know-how and expertise on mental health issues.
In relation to Asylum and Migration, cooperation was agreed to ensure the implementation of the recent Eastern Mediterranean Action Plan prepared by the European Commission, as well as to strengthen cooperation in the field of returns with a view to maximising the benefits of the relevant return programmes for both countries.
In the field of Civil Protection and within the framework of existing conventions, it was decided to plan joint actions in the field of prevention and response to natural disasters, given the events that unfolded across southern Europe last summer.
On Defence matters, our commitment to strengthening the Common European Defence was reaffirmed. The excellent level of cooperation between Ministries and Chiefs of Staff will be further extended through the cooperation of the defence and security academies.
In the Shipping sector, the parties agreed to develop joint actions and initiatives for the promotion and advancement of maritime education, the strengthening of cooperation and exchange of know-how regarding the digitalisation of the services of two countries’ registries, as well as the creation of prospects for the sustainable operation of the passenger maritime link Cyprus-Greece.
Developments in the Middle East were also discussed at the Intergovernmental Summit. The two countries unequivocally condemned terrorism and recognised Israel’s right to self-defend, within the framework of international law, in particular with regard to the protection of the civilian population.
They noted that Hamas is a terrorist organisation that does not represent the Palestinian people, who are expressed institutionally through the Palestinian Authority. Greece and Cyprus reiterated the need for the immediate release of the hostages without any conditions or preconditions.
They expressed their deep concern about the situation in Gaza and the need for an immediate and practical response to the humanitarian crisis. They also welcomed the Cypriot initiative, to which Greece is ready to make a practical contribution, for the creation of a defined and unhindered humanitarian aid sea corridor and the protection of civilians.
On other international issues, in particular the situation in Ukraine, the two leaders reiterated their full support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. At the same time, they underlined the commitment of the two countries to trilateral cooperation schemes as a means to promote security, peace and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In the field of Culture, they discussed issues related to the forthcoming signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation between the Deputy Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Cyprus and the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Hellenic Republic for the years 2024-2028.
Τhe development of structured cooperation and expertise in the framework of governmental coordination was also discussed.
Finally, it was agreed that the next Intergovernmental Summit will take place in Cyprus in 2024, with a jointly agreed agenda.