An announcement by the Cyprus Presidency on Thursday officially marked the initiation of a defence cooperation agreement between Cyprus and France, with particular focus on military and energy areas.
The agreement, signed by the two countries on April 4, 2017, came into force on August 1 and provides for upgraded cooperation in the fields of energy and maritime security, early warning and crisis management, and combatting extremism and piracy. On the military level, the agreement foresees cooperation as regards armaments nd defence technologies, as well as joint military training and search and rescue exercises.
The defence cooperation agreement “further enhances and extends the Republic of Cyprus’ cooperation with the Republic of France, in defence and security matters, while constituting at the same time an important step towards reaching the common goal of safeguarding an environment of stability and security in the Eastern Mediterranean,” the Cyprus Presidency press release said.
The agreement, it added, reaffirms “the excellent level of bilateral relations between the two countries and their multifaceted cooperation, something which was evident during the recent meeting between Presidents Anastasiades and Macron, in Paris.”
The Cyprus government has licensed French energy company Total which, along with partner Eni of Italy, will carry out exploratory drilling in seven of 13 areas, or blocks, south of the island nation.
Anastasiades’ talks with his French counterpart on July 23 had laid particular emphasis on the development of a French naval presence in Limassol, a city on the island’s southern coast, and in the broader eastern Mediterranean.
At the time, Anastasiades lauded France’s show of support, calling on the EU take notes on how French initiatives actively work towards bringing stability to the turbulent region.
Repeated desperate calls on the EU level for additional measures and sanctions against Turkey in view of its energy designs in maritime zones falling within Cyprus’s EEZ, including in areas licensed to Total and Eni, appear to be making headway, with an EU body tasked with drafting a document with potential names on which sanctions could be imposed.
Turkey insists it's acting to protect its interests and those of the island's breakaway Turkish Cypriots in the region's energy reserves.
But the island has also stressed the need for a more concrete presence of an EU force in the region, with the foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides in an interview with AP published Thursday calling for a Cyprus-based EU task force to fill in what he described as a power void in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Cypriot official said the EU should pursue a more muscular policy with a larger military footprint in the region, and lauded France for supporting this line.
As such, Cyprus appears to be prepared to grant space in the Limassol port to vessels of the French navy, with France in return vowing to provide active assistance to Cyprus in the event of a foreign attacker.
An equally integral aspect of the new defence agreement is the ‘Andreas Papandreou’ air base in Paphos, with reports claiming that France is looking to regularly use the base for its helicopters and aircraft.