by Yiannis Ioannou
German State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Anna Luhrmann, arrived in Cyprus on an official visit and spoke to "K" about the current developments in the eastern Mediterranean and the war in Ukraine. Anna Luhrmann did not fail to reiterate the importance of the resumption of talks on the basis of UN guidelines as well as to state her clear view of Berlin's position on Ankara's new round of hostilities against the backdrop of Cyprus' EEZ.
1. Welcome. To begin with, I would like to ask you what concerns everyone at this moment. How difficult will the winter be for the European Union? What are your comments, overall, on Germany's stance on the Russia-Ukraine war and your prediction regarding the outcome of the war?
Let me first start by underlining that the Ukrainian people will be facing winter in war times! To preserve their sovereignty and territorial integrity, Ukrainians have been fighting valiantly against the Russian invasion since February. Their success in fighting back Putin’s troops is also due to the unprecedented support from the European Union and international partners. We appreciate Cyprus’ contribution to stopping Russia from continuing this illegal war of aggression. Continued EU unity remains key!
Germany is determined to continue its financial, humanitarian and military support to Ukraine, tighten sanction pressure on Russia, and diversify its energy procurement away from Russian gas imports as quickly as possible. Our joint support is showing effect: the Russian military has failed to achieve its objectives in Ukraine and the Russian economy has entered into a steep downward trajectory under the pressure of our sanctions. Chancellor Scholz and Minister Baerbock put it very clearly: We will support the war-torn country as long as needed.
2. The eastern Mediterranean has been upgraded in recent years, geopolitically, as a new regional subsystem of exceptional importance. How do you see the role of the Republic of Cyprus in this, given that in the Cyprus Problem there is no real prospect of the resumption of the talks?
Cyprus is situated very prominently in the Eastern Mediterranean, which connects Europe, Asia and Africa. Energy can be a factor that brings together all three continents in an inclusive and cooperative way, and here I’m not speaking so much about extracting fossil resources but about the great potential to bring green energy from Africa and the Middle East to Europe via interconnectors in the very near future.
Concerning the Cyprus issue, I really hope that we can overcome the deadlock in the UN-led talks since all sides could profit enormously from more cooperation in the region – with energy being just one example.
3. I would like you to give us a comment on how Berlin can help with the resumption of the dialogue in the Cyprus Talks, especially in light of Turkey’s revisionist political practices in the region.
The German government has been working for de-escalation in the East Mediterranean for many years, and we will continue to do so. We call on all sides to constructively re-engage in the UN-led process - based on the parameters of a bi-zonal and bi-communal solution. There is no other way. In this context, I very much welcome Cyprus’ readiness to engage in confidence-building measures between the two communities.
4. Cyprus recently resumed its hydrocarbon exploration coming up with a new natural gas discovery in its EEZ. At the same time, Turkey -after 6 drillings in the area in 2019-2020, including 3 in Cyprus EEZ and continental shelf- has made a revisionist comeback, with a drillship, in the East Med. How do you approach the new round of tension in the area?
We continue to closely monitor the situation in the East Mediterranean. We will continue to encourage de-escalation and dialogue on all open maritime issues - based on international maritime law. So far we haven’t seen any new Turkish drilling in contested waters. We communicate clearly to Ankara that it is important to avoid any new provocations.
5. What is the current state of the Berlin-Nicosia bilateral relations and what steps can be taken to further enhance the relationship between Cyprus and Germany?
Cyprus is not only a favorite destination for many German tourists but also a close and reliable partner in the EU. I appreciate Cyprus’ constructive role when it comes to addressing our joint European challenges from Russia’s war of aggression to tackling climate change. With my visit, I also wanted to get some first-hand insights and ideas regarding further opportunities for bilateral cooperation. I could imagine that green energy could be such an opportunity, but there is also potential in deepening cooperation on culture and education or between our civil societies. I have come here to foster our bilateral relations and learn more about Cyprus’ perspective and challenges on the ground.
6. Last but not least, I would like a short comment on how the EU refugee crisis remains a vital issue for Europe and our societies. Cyprus is facing waves of undocumented immigrants, mostly via Turkey. What is the best policy practice to deal with such a crisis? -since in Cyprus we have an ongoing debate on that.
Cyprus’ efforts in dealing with a high number of refugees and migrants deserve our appreciation. We welcome the cooperation of Cyprus with the European Commission in this context. Germany has offered concrete bilateral support to Cyprus in the framework of our Joint Action Plan on Migration Management which was agreed upon in December 2020. We appreciate the joint initiatives launched in this context, e.g. in the field of repatriation and migration management.
At the same time, we need sustainable solutions for the EU’s migration policy. We welcome the recent success to set up a new solidarity mechanism to ease the burden on member states of the first arrival. We are ready to show tangible solidarity in the framework of this mechanism by assuming a substantial share. This is real progress towards a fair, efficient and crisis-proof reform of the Common European Asylum System that meets humanitarian standards and upholds fundamental European values based on a balance of responsibility and solidarity.