Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides hailed his country’s ties with India, describing them as “strong strategic and essential” and underlined how his country can become “the gateway to Europe” for Indian companies and other people’s engagement.
Speaking to WION’s senior diplomatic correspondent, Sidhant Sibal in New York, Cyprus FM said, “We have an excellent relationship, based on our strong commitment to international law and a rules-based international system.” The Foreign Minister had a bilateral meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Dr S Jaishankar in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). During the meeting, FM Nikos invited EAM to visit Cyprus.
The Cypriot FM also criticized Turkey for “militarization” of its foreign policy and “violation of international law“. He thanked India for its “active and major” role when Turkey was seen violating UN Security Council resolutions on Cyprus by opening Varosha. Varosha was once a popular seaside resort, but was abandoned after Turkey invaded the Mediterranean island in 1974.
WION: How would you characterize India-Cyprus relations?
Nikos Christodoulides: If I described the relationship between India and Cyprus I would use 3 words: strong, strategic and indispensable. Traditionally and historically, we have enjoyed excellent relations, based on our strong commitment to international law and the international rules-based system. I am very happy; I had the good fortune to meet my colleague here in New York not only to discuss our bilateral relations, but also to work together to improve our bilateral relations. We exchanged views on regional developments, I must say that I have always looked forward to the evaluation of my colleague who has a very good knowledge of the region.
Thirdly, we discussed relations between the European Union and India. Cyprus is a strong supporter of strengthening relations between Brussels and New Delhi and we must work with India, not only on economic and political issues, but also on the region. Because for us, India and the EU are pillars of stability in a region of great geostrategic importance. So we have to work with India and I am happy that very recently we had with us in Portugal, which had the presidency of the EU, our Indian colleague was also there to give an assessment for the development of the region and how to work together to strengthen EU-India relations.
WION: How can Cyprus be a launching pad for Indian businesses?
Nikos Christodoulides: Cyprus for India is the gateway to Europe and the European Union, and that is why we are working with my colleague to improve people-to-people contacts, to improve our trade relations and Europe is a huge market and can provide opportunities for Indians. Also, for Europe, Europeans, European companies to invest in India. It is a huge market, a market that can give a lot to European citizens and European companies.
WION: You had a meeting with EAM Jaishankar. India and Cyprus are working on a lot of things, we have seen conversations on the Turkish side not respecting United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Nikos Christodoulides: First of all, I would like to thank my Indian colleague, I would like to thank the Indian government through our discussions for their active and major role in the recent discussions regarding the Cyprus problem and Turkish illegal actions in Cyprus. When the issue was discussed in the Security Council, it must be said the leading role of India, it was crucial, in order to have a positive result in the Security Council.
It is something that we recognize, it is something that we are thankful for. At the same time, recognizing India’s role in the region, I invited my colleague to participate in regional developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Greater Middle East. At present, all countries in the region, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Jordan, are striving not only to better meet the challenges of the region, but also to benefit opportunities in the region. . I invite my Indian colleague to participate in this discussion, in these regional discussions, and I believe and hope that soon India will be part of these regional developments. I know, this is what the countries in the region will want to see.
WION: Turkey is also concerned about Cyprus and India. How is it changing the geopolitical situation in and around Cyprus?
Nikos Christodoulides: Unfortunately, Turkey’s behavior violates international law, they do not respect international law, they do not respect the international rules-based system. Turkey has problems with all of its neighbors. It’s not just Cyprus – Greece, Syria, Libya, Iraq, even India. What we want and the message we send to Turkey is that we do not exclude any country from our cooperation, we want excellent bilateral relations with all countries. What we need from Turkey is to respect international law, to respect the sovereignty, the territorial integrity of the countries of the region. However, we are seeing Turkish action, the militarization of Turkish foreign policy and this is a matter of great concern to all countries in the region.
WION: It doesn’t appear that Turkey is giving any positive vibes or actions in the region, considering recognizing northern Cyprus with Turkish allies like Pakistan trying to grope.
Nikos Christodoulides: First of all, you are right that we are not seeing any positive vibes coming from Turkey. We sometimes see few positive statements, but we don’t see positive actions. We need positive action. Regarding the issue you raised, the recognition of an illegal regime in northern Cyprus, as you well know, the Security Council has made it clear that such action would be against international law, and we expect to all countries in the international system not to take such action.
WION: Will you go to the UN Security Council again if Turkey is seen violating Security Council resolutions, as it has been?
Nikos Christodoulides: Of course, and in fact, the recent discussions that took place were due to Turkey’s illegal actions. This was the 3rd time we have appealed to the Security Council, and if there is a need again we will of course and look forward to India’s support and we know very well, having to mind that India’s foreign policy is based on international law, that we will have your support.