France, Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean
The geographic position of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterrranean and the historic presence of France in the region highlight its geopolitical importance for the two countries. Historically, the geographic position of Cyprus was the cause of many foreign occupants. For France the Eastern Mediterranean is a zone of influence, as we can gather from its mandate of Syria and Lebanon , after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the dissemination of the French language, the archaeological excavations and its military and naval presence in the region. The active diplomatic, cultural, scientific and educational presence of France in the Eastern Mediterranean is moreover proved by the fact that 50% of the questions addressed to the Quai D’Orsay in Paris concern the region. It is therefore only natural that Cyprus has become France’s central observation post in the region. In this connection it is worth mentioning that the most important bureau of the Agence France Press abroad, with more than a hundred personnel, is situated in Cyprus .
Cyprus is the strategic partner of France in the region, the “ally” as stated by Ministers of President’s Macron government. Cyprus enjoys the full support of France in the United Nations and the European Union. It is France’s firm belief that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as the European Union have a useful role to play in the search for the Cyprus problem. France is the only Western European country which supplied military equipment to Cyprus, despite the sale of arms embargo and has always honoured its allied relations with Cyprus. Another dimension of the good bilateral relations is the presence of French company Total in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone for the extraction of hydrocarbons. For its part Cyprus is the credible partner who welcomes France’s national marine in its ports, cooperates with France against terrorism and develops common approaches within the framework of the European Union and the Euro zone
The mere reference to the eastern Mediterranean automatically introduces the question of security and stability in the region, where the Syrian crisis and the hegemonic ambitions of Turkey have created an explosive situation. The position of France on both issues is of particular importance to Cyprus
The present situation in Syria is unacceptable to France and cannot continue, because its humanitarian, diplomatic, security and stability dimensions have international repercussions. This is witnessed by the fight against terrorism, the millions of refugees which inundated Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Europe, the aspirations of the Kurds to have their own state and the involvement of the Great Powers in the crisis.
France participates in the international coalition against the Islamic state, but she is not at war with Syria. Her priority is an orderly, well organised and agreed political solution , which presupposes a transitional period in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 of December 2015 . In this connection the departure of President Assad is not a pre condition for France. France recognizes the need to establish a stable and credible state in Syria within its present frontiers , which will allow the progressive return of the refugees to their homes , assure the protection of minorities , especially of the Christians , and encourage the reintegration of the “the generation of chaos” into society .
As far as Turkey is concerned, France recognises the present realities. In actual fact, today’s Turkey aspires to enter into dialogue with the EU, the United States, Russia and others as equal to equal. Her ambition to become an international player nourished by her economic prowess and her membership of the G20. Europe is interested to see a Turkey of stability and democracy. It is for this reason that France insists on the protection of human rights and a dialogue with Turkey, without concessions, despite the need to preserve the EU- Turkey agreement on the migrants.
It is within this environment of instability in the eastern Mediterranean that the relations between Cyprus and France acquire particular importance. Cyprus can indeed play a pivotal role of stability in the region.
The goal, therefore, of the French foreign policy is to maintain it. The visit of President Anastasiades to France, on the invitation of President Macron aims, at this moment, at strengthening the France- Cyprus bilateral relations which within the framework of the existing constructive cooperation between the two countries will certainly benefit our two peoples.