The Conservative Friends of Cyprus have hosted their third Parliamentary delegation to Cyprus, a Commonwealth and EU member, where the importance of the close bilateral relationship between the UK and Cyprus, particularly post-Brexit, was top of the agenda.
This year’s delegates included Sir Graham Brady MP (Chairman of the 1922 Committee), Paul Scully MP (the Conservative Party’s Vice-Chairman for London), Dr Matthew Offord MP, Sheryll Murray MP, Martin Vickers MP, former MP David Burrowes, former Lord Mayor of the City of London, Sir Michael Bear, Parliamentary aides Daniel Aldred, Bob Davidson and Ann Vickers, the organisation’s Parliamentary Officer Cllr Maria Alexandrou-Zavros, Executive Officers Andre Chris and Doros Partasides, and Chairman Jason Charalambous.
Brexit and the enhancement of UK-Cyprus bilateral ties were discussed at meetings with Demetris Syllouris, President of Cyprus’ House of Representatives; Averof Neophytou, Chairman of DISY (Cyprus’ governing party); and with George Lillikas and members of Cyprus’ cross-party Standing Committee on Foreign and European Affairs.
A round-table discussion with Cyprus’ Deputy Minister for Shipping Natasa Pilidou highlighted the importance of the shipping sector to the island’s economy, and a discussion with the Mayor of Larnaca Andreas Vyras focused on the importance of British tourism to Cyprus.
A presentation by Invest Cyprus (the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency) showcased the close business and economic links the UK shares with Cyprus, and the potential for closer collaboration post-Brexit; and a visit to the University of Cyprus’ Kios Research and Innovation Center, delegates gained an understanding of the center’s close academic collaboration with Imperial College London regarding ‘Smart City’ research. The very close cooperation between the island’s rescue centre and the UK was raised at a presentation and tour of Cyprus’ Joint Rescue Coordination Centre – which oversees the rescue of Syrian refugees in Cypriot waters amongst other vital work aimed at saving lives.
A visit to Kykkos Monastery and Byzantine Museum enabled the delegates to appreciate the island’s rich religious and cultural heritage, and a visit to the recently redeveloped village of Kalopanagiotis showcased the way Cyprus has transformed some rural mountain communities in a sustainable way.
The delegation also met with Ambassador Mavroyiannis, the Republic of Cyprus’ Chief Negotiator for the Cyprus Problem, to receive an update of the steps being taken to reunify the island; and were able to see the division of communities in person with a tour of the UN Buffer Zone, or ‘Green Line’ which divides the country and Nicosia in two. Delegates also met with the Political Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as leading Turkish Cypriots to discuss and understand the two communities’ respective positions regarding the recommencement of talks.
At a briefing with HE Stephen Lillie, Britain’s High Commissioner to Cyprus, delegates were able to discuss the steps taken by the UK’s top diplomat on the island to support the bilateral relationship with the Republic of Cyprus.
Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Cyprus, Jason Charalambous said that “the resounding view of all Cypriots we have met with this week, whether in politics, business or academia, was that post-Brexit, close ties with the UK are not only desirable, but essential – and I am delighted that the message from the Parliamentarians present was that they would do all they can to ensure that the relationship remains strong and gets even closer”.
Parliamentary Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Cyprus, Dr Matthew Offord MP, said that “I am confident that there will continue to be a positive and close relationship between the UK and Cyprus once we leave the EU, and despite the issues that need to be resolved, I am optimistic that the relationship will continue to grow. I am also confident that the UK will also continue to play a positive role in efforts to reunify the island and encourage a fair and just solution to the Cyprus Problem”.
The Conservative Friends of Cyprus is a volunteer-run organisation established in 1992 which seeks to strengthen the bond between the UK and Cyprus. The organisation hosts regular Parliamentary delegations to the island; political discussion forums on social and economic issues with leading Conservative politicians; and regular campaigning sessions supporting Conservative candidates in local and national elections.
On 30th September the Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, will attend the Conservative Friends of Cyprus’ annual Conservative Party Conference reception, where he will address an audience of party members, senior politicians and diplomats.