NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – Defense ministers of Cyprus, Greece and Egypt said on Wednesday that emerging regional threats and challenges require even closer cooperation and will seek to invite more countries to participate in the joint military exercises aimed at improving their level of preparedness.
Cypriot Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides welcomed his Greek and Egyptian counterparts, Nikos Panagiotopoulos and General Mohamed Zaki, to the Cypriot capital as part of a series of three-party meetings aimed at strengthening defense cooperation between the three countries.
“We also agreed to further develop our now firmly established cooperation and thereby send clear and strong messages, as well as to explore the possibility of expanding it … through the inclusion of other countries with which we share same values ââand goals for the future of our enlarged region, âsaid Panagiotopoulos.
Earlier this year, France and the United Arab Emirates participated for the first time in joint maneuvers with the three countries.
Zaki said the three ministers discussed better coordination of actions to counter threats emanating from the wider region such as terrorism, illegal migration and illegal trafficking.
Referring to the war between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza as well as tensions in Libya, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, Petrides said the three ministers agreed on the need for political solutions.
The latest in a series of such meetings between the three defense ministers is an extension of the close ties that the leaders of the three countries have forged in recent years, on the basis of shared interests regarding potential hydrocarbon deposits. in the eastern Mediterranean.
Egypt shares maritime borders with Greece and Cyprus. The Cypriot government has allowed France’s energy companies Total, Italy’s Eni and ExxonMobil to search for gas fields in waters where they have exclusive economic rights.
This research has fueled tensions with neighboring Turkey which does not recognize Cyprus as a state and contests these rights. He also claims much of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone and says he will defend his rights and those of the Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway north of the ethnically divided island nation at the region’s energy fields.
Turkey has sent drill ships and research vessels escorted by warships to search for oil in waters where Cyprus and Greece claim exclusive rights.
Panagotopoulos and Petrides rejected what they called Turkey’s âillegal, provocative and one-sidedâ actions in Greek and Cypriot waters which violate international law and undermine regional stability.
In a joint declaration, the ministers condemned âactions which violate the sovereign rights, territorial integrity and unity of any countryâ and respect for international law.