Sharm El-Sheikh, 24 February 2019
Dear President Sisi, Dear President Tusk,
At the outset, I would like to express my gratitude to President Sisi for hosting this historic Summit and congratulate both the President of Egypt and the President of the European Council.
As an active advocate of an ever stronger Euro-Arab partnership, I consider this meeting as an important milestone.
It highlights our acknowledgement that our strategic relations contribute to the efforts to address the multifaceted challenges in our common region and to promote peace, security, stability and economic growth.
Transnational challenges such as terrorism, regional conflicts and humanitarian crises, migration, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change are a global source of instability. They threaten the world order and challenge our collective ability to provide effective responses.
Regrettably, instability and conflict are the predominant characteristics of our wider region itself. Coming from a country still suffering from Turkish occupation and division, violations of sovereign rights in its territory and in its Exclusive Economic Zone, I acknowledge the effects that these violations have and we work hard against these illegal, anachronistic and destabilising situations. Only through peace we can bring prosperity to our people.
In Syria, the war is far from being over. ISIS and other terrorist groups may have been weakened, but certainly not eliminated. At the same time, the humanitarian situation remains critical.
The war in Syria continues to have a deep impact on neighbouring countries. I refer to Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon which have had to shoulder a disproportionate burden. They need our continued support.
Other conflicts have resulted in dire humanitarian crises testing our moral values. In Yemen the vicious circle of violence has resulted in one of the worst humanitarian crisis this world has seen in decades.
We welcome the Stockholm Agreement, but we are also aware of the challenges for its implementation and that further steps are required to put an end to this conflict.
In our wider region, but also globally, humanitarian refugee crises and migration flows are a constant source of instability, creating rapid demographic changes and heavy economic and social pressures. We need to collectively tackle the root causes in order to address the issues effectively.
Terrorism has affected the lives of all of us. Radical extremism has brought asymmetrical threats to Europe and in the Arab world. The country hosting us today, Egypt, continues to suffer and is in a constant battle to combat this scourge. Collective and coordinated action is indispensable.
We cannot talk of prosperity and stability in the region while the Palestinian issue remains unresolved.
The objective should be the establishment of a sovereign, viable and contiguous Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel and all its neighbors.
We urge and hope for a successful outcome of the efforts for intra-Palestinian reconciliation and the de-escalation of the fragile situation in Gaza. We all recognize that this will be a decisive step forward.
We all agree that the only way to effectively address common challenges and threats is to act together.
The basic principles underlining such a collective response are: adherence to international law, respect and promotion of human rights, respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of states and good neighbourly relations. Our efforts must be underpinned by trust, solidarity and shared responsibility.
I would more particularly add, that concerted international cooperation can be combined with, and complemented by, effective regional cooperation.
Cyprus strongly believes in such efforts and has been active in establishing synergies in our immediate and wider neighbourhood, including through the creation of cooperation fora with partners present here today, Greece, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine.
Our vision is a more stable and prosperous region and to this end we engage with a positive agenda in many issues of mutual interest, including security, energy, climate change.
It is well known that countries located in the region of Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, which is classified as one of the global “hotspots”, are considered as highly vulnerable to climate change.
Allow me to seize this opportunity to introduce a regional initiative that is currently under formulation by Cyprus. Some of you may recall that last year, during the International Conference on “Climate Change in the Mediterranean and the Middle East”, Cyprus first outlined its vision to undertake an international initiative and coordinate the efforts of Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region to ameliorate climate change and its impacts.
We are ready to take this vision forward, with the development of a regional Action Plan, which will be subsequently adopted in an International Conference, for recording and mitigating climate change, in sectors such as the Environment, Agriculture, Tourism and Health.
This initiative will be supported by cross-disciplinary on-going research and will develop an inclusive “dialogue forum” - a platform where national and regional stakeholders can discuss science-based practical solutions to challenges related to climate change.
In effect, this effort will serve as an important and innovative regional contribution to the implementation of both the Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement.
In concluding, allow me to underline that this Summit is a message to the world that the leaders of the Euro-Arab region are determined to work together and achieve tangible results concerning the various complex issues that affect us, individually and collectively.
This Summit, and the Declaration to be adopted, is a Statement of the relevance and necessity for an ever stronger partnership and our commitment to this end.