Defence ministers of Greece, Israel and Cyprus urge cooperation in the region

Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman and Cyprus Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides on Tuesday urged the countries in the region to cooperate and respect international law, while confronting trends toward extremism, in statements after their first trilateral meeting in Athens.

In the meeting, the ministers examined ways to maximise the potential opportunities for cooperating in the area of operations and military exercises, as well as for cooperation between their respective defence industries in research and technology. Among others, they decided to establish a trilateral committee that will prepare their annual meetings, which will now be held each year.

In statements afterward, Kammenos noted that cooperation between the three countries was based on sincere friendship and respect and has now taken on the form of a strategic partnership relationship. When communication between peoples has been unimpeded throughout history, this has resulted in progress on all levels, he pointed out, but when this was hindered by external factors this resulted in stagnation that led to conflicts.

He underlined that the three countries are determined to continue and expand the security and prosperity they have created, noting that the instability in the area can’t be faced independently but required collective efforts and cooperation.

He urged the countries in the region to focus on that which unites them and to resolve differences through dialogue based on international law, with respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and security. Kammenos concluded by quoting his Israeli counterpart, who said that the world is divided into extremist countries and those seeking cooperation.

On his part, Lieberman referred to the very good relations between the three sides on a trilateral level, saying that this cooperation may become a very significant pillar of security and for tackling smuggling, terrorism and human trafficking.

The division is not between Jews, Christians or Muslims but between countries with a moderate stance and the radical countries, he added, urging moderate countries to rally together against extremism.

The Cypriot defence minister noted that the three countries pledged to support security, growth and prosperity in their shared neighbourhood. In this way, they were not only defending their own interests but also those of the EU and the international community, promoting stability, security and normality in a turbulent area where there were issues linked to asymmetrical threats, maritime and energy security and an ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Through this trilateral cooperation we seek to meet these challenges effectively, Fokaides said. Cyprus supports the axis of stability as an actor for security and a hub for humanitarian operations, he added, expressing its will to convert the surrounding neighbourhood from a zone of conflict to a region of peace, stability, growth and cooperation.

Finally, he expressed his conviction that this path will be extremely beneficial, once it is understood that that intimidation and the creation of tensions have no place in the region.