Egyptian, Greek and Cypriot public figures discuss strategic cooperation in AUC workshop

Mahmoud Aziz , Tuesday 26 Sep 2017

Monday's event, arranged by the American University in Cairo, reflects closer ties between the three nations in recent years, including several top-level summits, with security and energy topping the agenda

Egypyt AUC
Nicholas Papadopoulos, president of the Democratic Party in Cyprus and candidate in the nation's presidential elections (right) and former Egyptian ambassador Anis Salem speaking at the AUC workshop on Monday (Photo: Ahram Online)

Several academic and political figures from Greece, Cyprus and Egypt gathered in Cairo on Monday for a workshop on the emerging strategic cooperation between the Eastern Mediterranean countries, especially in the fields of energy and security.

The workshop was held under the auspices of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR) at the American University in Cairo.

The discussions reflected the growth of cooperation between the three nations in recent years, as evidenced by four tripartite summits involving the three nations' leaders, the last being in Cairo in October 2016.

Among the participants of Monday's workshop was MP Nicholas Papadopoulos, president of the Democratic Party in Cyprus and candidate in the nation's presidential elections scheduled for February 2018.

He highlighted the potential for increased economic cooperation between the three nations, saying he hoped to conclude an Egypt-Cyprus commercial agreement, making Egypt an export hub for the Aphrodite gas field. The export of gas to Europe was of strategic importance to Egypt, he said.

"We can actually use the facilities in Egypt's Damietta port, and that project will transform the whole region and benefit both countries, within strategic, feasible, essential cooperation to bring peace and stability to the region," Papadopoulos said.

"My late father, as a late president of Cyprus, signed the first demarcation [agreement] with Egypt in 2003, and nothing will give me greater honour as a possible president of the country than to sign the first commercial agreement with Egypt," he concluded.

Assessing the current threats facing the region, former Egyptian Ambassador Anis Salem, said there is huge potential for the three countries to work together in the areas of peace-building, arms control and preventive diplomacy.

"There is a mechanism for cooperation at the moment, which is the trilateral summits that gather the three countries' leaders. However, I believe this cooperation can be developed by activating higher-level joint committees to act more instantly and rapidly for enhancing coordination between the three countries," he told participants.

Salem pointed to military cooperation between Egypt and Greece, represented by the Medusa joint military exercise, as well as other third-party military exercises involving Egypt and Greece.

He recommended that the three nations coordinate to draw up various threat scenarios and the components of strategic cooperation, as well as mobilizing resources available from both the EU and NATO for the benefit of the three nations.

From Greece, Charalambos Papasotiriou, professor of Strategic Studies at Panteion University in Athens, talked about the causes of instability in the Eastern Mediterranean and the whole region, highlighting the conflits in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya.

Papasotiriou also tackled what he described as Turkish and Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist organizations, saying it lead to the current crisi in the Gulf.

He also discussed the ongoing dispute between Iran and Gulf Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia.

Papasotiriou said the ongoing cooperation between Egypt, Cyprus and Greece was one positive aspect of the Eastern Mediterranean picture, in addition to cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Israel on the regions' gas pipelines.

Meanwhile, Markos Kyprianou, former foreign minister of Cyprus, said the Eastern Mediterranean region is historically, politically, socially and culturally diverse, a fact he explained should help in ensuring cooperation between nations in support of regional stability.

"An important aim for the European states is to have a secure and stable southern region, and more broadly, a more secure and stable Middle East and North Africa, by seeking full comprehensive security cooperation between the EU and its Southern partners," Kyprianou said.

Nabil Fahmy, the former Egyptian foreign minister, sent a statement to workshop participants saying that the leaders of Egypt, Greece and Cyprus had a responsibility to translate the ongoing "developing and prosperous" alliance into a tangible reality.

This can be achieved, Fahmy said, by studying the dynamics of the alliance and the possible opportunities of expanding it, providing a role-model for regional and global cooperation.

The leaders of Egypt, Greece and Cyprus are set to meet in Nicosia in November, the fifth tripartite meeting in the past few years.

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