A new window of opportunity has opened for Cyprus French Senator tells CNA

A new window of opportunity has opened for Cyprus French Senator tells CNA

The election of Mustafa Akinci as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community has opened a window of opportunity for the Cyprus problem, that needs to be seized without losing any valuable time, but also without acting hastily, French Senator and Head of the France-Cyprus Friendship Group in the French Senatε Didier Marie told CNA, during his visit to Cyprus, on the occasion of the inauguration of the CNP Cyprus Insurance Holdings premises. CNP Cyprus Insurance Holdings is member of the French Group CNP Assurances.

Marie underlined the need for a more active involvement of the EU in the process for a Cyprus settlement, and noted that the agreement that will be reached must be sound and solid. He underlined that France will always support the Republic of Cyprus, both at the UN Security Council and the EU, noting that “if there is anything more that we can do, what remains is to be asked to do it.”

Referring to the economic crisis Marie said, in an interview with CNA, that almost all European countries, including France, have been hit by it. With regard to Cyprus he said that the strict measures which the authorities had to take have borne fruit, while as regards Greece he said that France is working with a view to reach an agreement, underlining that the EU, the IMF and Greece need to make compromises.

Marie described the relations between Cyprus and France as excellent, noting however that there is room for improvement in the fields of tourism, shipping and services.

On the Cyprus problem, Marie said that France supports the positions of the Republic of Cyprus in the talks and has always done so, as a permanent member of the Security Council.

He noted that the election of Mustafa Akinci is an important development “and we are particularly pleased about the first results of the first meetings between the two leaders.”

Marie said that the Cyprus problem is a complex issue “and there are many compromises that need to be made and this will take place as discussions move on. France will always be very active at the Security Council and we believe that the EU must also be more active,” he added.

“The EU has a role to play to support the process in the framework of Turkey`s EU accession course as well. It is a process which takes time. But with Akinci`s election a window has opened and we need to use this opportunity without wasting any precious time, but also without acting hastily,” he noted.

Marie acknowledged that the settlement of the Cyprus problem relies to a great extent on Ankara, noting that “we shall see whether the result of the parliamentary elections in Turkey could facilitate the negotiations.”

He noted that optimistic people speak about a solution before the end of the year, adding that “if this happens we will be happy, but an agreement needs to be sound and solid, and be accepted by the people, the two communities.”

“To have a positive outcome of the referenda everyone must get involved in this effort, the politicians, the civil society and the mass media,” he added.

Asked about the cooperation among the Mediterranean countries in various fields, including the energy sector, Marie said that France had the initiative for the cooperation of the countries of the Mediterranean, adding that this is very important because they are neighbouring countries.

“The situation is complicated and unstable. These are long-standing problems, as the issue between Israel and the Palestinians. The positions of France and Cyprus on this are identical. We support the establishment of a Palestinian state in parallel with the maintenance of security in Israel. Of course some time will be needed for this,” he added. Marie also referred to France`s role in efforts to address other issues in the area, as the situation in Syria, Iraq and Mali.

As regards the issue of hydrocarbons, he said that their discovery is a very positive development. He underlined the need to respect the delimitation of Exclusive Economic Zones and that “these should not be violated as was the case recently.”

Following a Navigational Telex or NAVTEX, issued by Turkey in October last year, Turkish seismic research vessel “Barbaros” violated the Republic of Cyprus` Exclusive Economic Zone. The Turkish NAVTEX, that was renewed in January 2015, expired on April 6 and Barbaros left Cyprus` EEZ.

Referring to the technical aspect of the hydrocarbons` issue, Marie said that “we saw the difficulties which Total faced as regards the exploitation of the block which it was licensed to explore,” adding that “the oil market is a difficult one and when the cost is high second thoughts are made.”

Cyprus and Total signed in March this year an agreement on further exploration works bu Total in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus, in order to further assess the prospect of exploration in block 11. In January it was announced that Total was not able to locate drilling target areas within the blocks 10 and 11 in Cyprus` Exclusive Economic Zone that it was licensed to explore.

Marie expressed hope that Cyprus will be able to exploit its natural resources. “They are not those they expected but there is prospect for the economic development of the island,” he noted.

Furthermore, he said that Cyprus may not be a major energy producer but still gets involved in environmental issues and will attend a Summit on climate changes that will take place in Paris on December 2015.

Asked about the financial crisis, Marie said that it influenced almost all European countries, including France. “Growth is very low and stands at 1%. The public deficit is high. We hope that growth will reach 5% but measures must certainly be taken,” he noted.

Referring to Cyprus, the French Senator said that it was harshly hit by the crisis, noting that the authorities had to take strict measures that have borne fruit.

On the issue of Greece, he stressed the need for reforms with a view to modernize institutions and Athens to be able to repay her debt. “But at the same time the mandate which Mr. Tsipras has been given by the Greek people needs to the respected, something which means that the EU, the IMF and the Greek government must make compromises. We hope that a settlement will be found in the coming days. France makes efforts for such an agreement,” he noted.

Referring to the crisis in general, Marie said that there is a favourable framework right now since the interest rates are low, the oil prices remain low. All these create a positive image, however, he said, this is not enough.

“We need to take measures both at the European and the national level with a view to achieve growth,” he noted, and added that “the decision of the ECB to buy debts is a positive development because it allows liquidity for investments and consumption.” Furthermore, he noted that the Juncker investment plan is also towards the right direction and that the relaxation of fiscal rule in Europe is positive and contributes to efforts to avert austerity.

As regards bilateral relations and cooperation between Cyprus and France, the French Senator said that these are excellent, noting that the two countries have identical views on international issues and at the EU.

He referred to the very close cooperation of the two countries in military issues, noting that the military authorities of the countries are in a constant contact. Moreover he said that Cyprus facilitates efforts against Jihadists and expressed satisfaction over Cyprus` support in this field.

Marie said that the two countries have a very close cooperation in the fields of culture, education and sciences, welcoming the decision taken by the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the International Organization of the Francophonie, to give the opportunity to a number of civil servants to learn the French language.

He also noted that various French companies do business in Cyprus, adding however that there are fields in which the two countries can reinforce their cooperation as tourism, shipping and services. Marie said that the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry organizes, in cooperation with the Ambassador of France in Cyprus, a visit of Cyprus` financial stakeholders in Cyprus, an initiative which he welcomed.

Moreover he noted that a delegation of the Cyprus parliament, headed by the Chairman of the Cyprus – France Friendship Group at the Cyprus` House Averof Neophytou will visit Paris in October and hold meetings with politicians.