NICOSIA - Cyprus’ accession to the Partnership of Peace (PfP) programme will highlight its geostrategic role and contribute to further involve Europe in challenging security issues, Minister of Defence Fotis Fotiou has said.
In an interview with CNA, the Minister noted that the accession to the PfP constitutes a strategic goal of the government, and stressed that this would by no means harm the traditionally friendly relations with Russia.
He pointed out that the Republic of Cyprus is the only country in the EU which neither participates in NATO, nor in the PfP programme.
Speaking to CNA, the Minister referred to the advantages of Cyprus joining the PfP, saying that “it will highlight our country’s geostrategic role and help to further involve Europe in the major issue of security”.
The PfP, he said, offers the possibility to exchange information on issues like terrorism, drug trafficking, cyber-security, while Cyprus could participate in a series of educational seminars in IT, administration, health, boarder security, humanitarian issues, air defence, cyber defence, maritime and energy safety, crisis management etc.
“Bearing in mind the rapid developments in the wider region, the above areas are considered as vital issues to our country”, he underlined.
He said that one of the reasons that the government of Cyprus has indicated its intention to submit an application to join the PfP programme is to help solve problems of cooperation between the EU and NATO and added that Cyprus has submitted a proposal concerning the EU-NATO-Turkey relations.
Fotiou said that for now, the government is focusing on the good preparation before submitting its request for accession.
He pointed out the need for the EU countries to support Cyprus’ application saying that together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they work on diplomatic level to highlight the advantages for the EU and NATO of Cyprus future accession.
“We have already held a series of contacts with our EU partners, including Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, as well as High Representative of the EU on Foreign and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton”, he said, adding that the purpose of those contacts was to inform about Cyprus’ intentions.
Moreover, Cyprus informed members of the European Parliament as well as NATO member states which are not in the EU.
Referring to the relations with Russia, he said that Cyprus’ decision will by no means affect its relations with the Russian Federation and described those relations as “traditionally excellent”.
In addition, he pointed out that that the government of Cyprus’ intention is to further strengthen and deepen its ties with Russia and recalled of his visit to Russia last May.
Our intention to join the PfP, he said, aims to preserve peace and security in the region, and pointed out that Russia is linked with NATO through the strategic dialogue between them.
Nor will Cyprus’ excellent relations with Arab countries be affected by Nicosia’s decision, he stressed.
“We seek to further develop the close cooperation we have with our neighbouring Arab countries on various levels, especially in the energy and security fields”, he underlined.
According to NATO, the Partnership for Peace (PfP) is a programme of practical bilateral cooperation between individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries and NATO. It allows partners to build up an individual relationship with NATO, choosing their own priorities for cooperation.
Turkey, which occupies 37% of Cyprus’ territory since 1974 despite numerous UN/EU and other decision for its withdrawal, raises obstacles as regards Cyprus’ participation in international organisations.
As regards NATO, Turkey uses as a preface the 2002 Copenhagen European Council Declaration regarding EU-NATO cooperation in the handling of crisis management and is constantly trying to expand the idea of “strategic partnership” to include anything that concerns EU-NATO relations.
Furthermore, Turkey refuses to agree to the expansion of EU-NATO dialogue with the participation of Cyprus, based on the pretext that Cyprus has chosen not to participate in the Partnership for Peace, nor has it concluded a Security of classified information Agreement with NATO.
The problems and complications in EU-NATO cooperation stem from the steadfast refusal of Turkey to accept that the EU consists of 27 member-states and that Cyprus constitutes an integral part of any EU cooperation with other international organizations.