Keynote Address by the President of the Democratic Rally, Mr. Averof Neofytou at the public lecture at the London School of Economics and Political Science
“Cyprus and the new geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean”
Monday, December 2nd 2019, Old Theatre, Old Building, LSE, London, 6:30pm
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I address this lively audience in a public lecture hosted by the Hellenic Observatory and the Hellenic Bankers Association UK, here at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science.
Dear Professor Featherstone, Head of the European Institute of the LSE and Dear Mr. Louis Loizou, Chairman of the Hellenic Bankers Association UK, thank you for the kind invitation to be with you tonight. It is a great honor for me to be amongst you.
We live through times of challenges in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus in particular. These challenges are not merely Cypriot issues. They are important European issues with great benefits for Europe particularly in regards to its energy security.
The region of the Eastern Mediterranean has always been rich in conflicts and geostrategic challenges. The severe humanitarian and refugee crises have increased migration flows. At the same time, the energy potential has turned the global energy spotlight on the region. New horizons for relations in the region are opening for Cyprus and the European Union, creating conditions for wider synergies. The geopolitical map is changing. And indeed geopolitical challenges increase the need for a stability pillar in the region.
The strategic objective is to transform the Eastern Mediterranean. From a region of conflict into one of stability, security and prosperity. As such, regional and international actors like the European Union, have a role to play to safeguard the stability of the region.
Cyprus’ narrative for the Eastern Mediterranean is one of strengthening its role as a geostrategic bridge under the principle of strengthening collaboration and cooperation.
Utilizing Cyprus’ unique geostrategic location and the long - standing historical ties of friendship, cooperation, and mutual understanding it enjoys with all neighboring countries, except Turkey. Working methodically in deepening our ties and building cooperation that yields tangible results. Beneficial not only for the countries involved but also for the region as a whole. Therefore, bringing to the European table our bridging role.
Our actions are underpinned by a long term vision for our region that we believe is important also for Europe. We see significant added value in increasing EU involvement in the region. We believe that Cyprus, a member state of the European Union with excellent relations with its neighbors and a deep understanding of the dynamics of South East Mediterranean, can be a catalyst in this direction.
In this framework, the Eastern Mediterranean energy prospect is a game changer. The presence of huge players of the global energy industry, such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, ENI, Qatar Petroleum and Kogas in the Cypriot EEZ is telling.
The energy prospect creates the potential for wider convergences, cooperation and investment opportunities. It can become a tool of cooperation that would contribute in meeting the energy needs of the region and of the EU and gradually contribute to greater stability in relations among neighboring countries and promote security and peace. The agreement for the export of Israeli gas to Egypt, are concrete examples of the role of energy in strengthening regional relationships.
The energy resources can in their totality cover the regional energy needs. Moreover, the region’s potential to become a future gas supplier to both Europe and Asia, given its strategic location near the European market and the Suez Canal, is a valid one.
Cyprus can indeed play an important role in de-risking energy exploitation in the region and be the reliable and credible pillar of political, energy and economic cooperation and a link between Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Enabling increased energy security for Europe through diversification of sources.
Practically speaking, when we consider the region, Cyprus is indeed the prudent location for critical energy infrastructure and in particular a liquefaction plant. While verified quantities do not viably support one yet, we are confident that new discoveries will make it operationally viable. This will enable the export of liquefied gas to a re-gasification plant in Alexandroupolis, Greece and from there to the Balkans, further diversifying energy sources for Europe and the region.
It could also be exported to regions in Asia that would need LNG as a fuel and through a pipeline to existing LNG plants in Egypt. Cyprus and Egypt have already agreed for a natural gas pipeline from the Aphrodite reserve to these plants. At the same time, discussions for sales contracts from Aphrodite are quite advanced.
If proven technically and economically viable, the East Med pipeline is an option that could serve towards developing indigenous EU resources and diversifying supply sources and routes, enhancing the EU’s security of supply.
In fact, it is the energy developments in our region that triggered the trilateral cooperation mechanisms. Putting into action our strategy to create synergies and forge closer cooperation with moderate countries of the region in a broad range of areas: from political and economic cooperation to security, energy, education, innovation and agriculture.
The trilateral cooperation mechanisms that Cyprus promotes with Greece and key players such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon are core to this. They serve as a model of regional dialogue, contributing to the consolidation of peace, stability and prosperity. They also serve as a tool for achieving greater understanding and cooperation on all levels. There is no doubt that these initiatives will contribute to regional security, but also to the security of the European Union and its citizens.
They are driven by the central pillar of a positive agenda, and are indeed an instrument for promoting cooperation. They constantly evolve in areas where there is a comparative advantage. This included broadening the trilateral format to bring in additional partners in specific fields. Such as Italy and the European Commission in the discussions of cooperation on energy related issues. France on the creation of a new cooperation formation in the region and security issues. And the USA on issues of energy and security.
The trilateral mechanisms serve in essence as an inclusive and dynamic format and platform for regional cooperation. The fact that they have attracted the interest of other countries is a recognition of their success. And of the growing understanding that this form of regional cooperation contributes to collective efforts to address challenges.
The decision to create a Permanent Secretariat in Nicosia for the Trilaterals will further solidify the progress achieved and create additional momentum forward.
Cyprus is in the forefront of institutionalizing partnerships in the Eastern Mediterranean, aiming to establish conditions of peace and stability in our region. At the same time, it is a fact that Turkey’s increased aggression in the region and against Cyprus poses a serious destabilizing threat.
Turkey’s latest moves to conduct illegal drilling operations within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone in plots allocated to Italian company ENI and French company Total, constitute a violation of Cyprus sovereign rights.
This aggression is taking place as we are currently in the midst of a new effort to resume the process and restart negotiations to reach a viable solution to the Cyprus problem. We are determined and committed and in full support of the efforts of the President of the Republic for the resumption of talks.
In addition, the Syria developments further increase tensions and migration flows in the region creating further challenges.
For Cyprus and indeed Europe, regional cooperation is of essence towards stabilizing the region. It forms a vital counterbalance to the geopolitical challenges as a potentially viable mechanism of stability through mutual cooperation.
Post comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, and provided that Cyprus would have its own LNG plant, and potentially the EastMed would be realized despite the difficulties, I would not exclude the option of a pipeline to Turkey for the sale of natural gas at commercial terms. In a post solution era, Cyprus relations with Turkey will change, opening opportunities for further cooperation.
The ultimate goal is hydrocarbons to serve as a means to bringing prosperity to all Cypriots and the region. Indeed this small pin on the map can have an important role in realizing much needed stability in the region. It can be the required security pillar to strengthen the energy security of Europe and the region through diversification of sources.
A reunited Cyprus as a pillar of stability and a link between the European Union, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, positively contributing in the energy security of the region and Europe, can very well be the way to achieve this. And provide the necessary framework and a secure base of the infrastructure investments required.
I would like to thank you again for the honor to address you and participate at this prestigious event. I look forward to a lively discussion.