Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus

The President of the Republic, Mr Nikos Christodoulides, met on Wednesday, 27 March 2024, at the Presidential Palace with the President of Estonia, Mr Alar Karis, who paid an official visit to Cyprus.

President Karis and his spouse arrived at the Presidential Palace in the morning and were welcomed by President Christodoulides and his spouse, while a military guard paid honours. Following the performance of the national anthems of the two countries, President Karis laid a wreath at the monument of Archbishop Makarios III. Then, the two Presidents had a private meeting, followed by extended talks between the delegations of the two countries. Later on, the two Presidents made statements to the media.

In his statement, President Christodoulides stated the following:

“Despite the geographical distance that separates our countries, Cyprus and Estonia are similar in more ways than meets the eye, as we started to discover already back in 1992, when we established our diplomatic relations.

We are both small and resilient countries, located on different edges of Europe. More importantly, we are two countries that geography has defined and continues to define their respective histories. Our people are active and ingenious in advancing their development and that of their countries. We also share the same set of values; the constant pursuit for peace and an unwavering commitment to the principles of International Law as the foundation that underpins the rules-based international order.

With President Karis, we had the opportunity to discuss today, inter alia, our bilateral relations, European affairs, global and regional developments, as well as the Cyprus problem.

Regarding our bilateral relations, I am very pleased to attest that the understanding and cooperation between Cyprus and Estonia across the board is stronger than ever before. This fact is reflected, inter alia, in the steady flow of high-level visits in recent years, in the enhanced trade figures and in the unprecedented levels of people-to-people contacts, which we very much welcome. We agreed to further deepen our cooperation at all levels by exploring new areas of mutual concern, such as investments, cybersecurity and maritime affairs.

In this context, I welcome the fact that President Karis is accompanied by a sizeable business delegation, the members of which will have the opportunity later today to engage with their Cypriot counterparts in a bilateral forum hosted by the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

I also wish to highlight Estonia's excellence in digital transformation and e-governance, making it a global best practice example, something that I had the opportunity to realise firsthand when I visited Tallinn back in 2021. We have much to learn and gain from Estonia's example in our effort to enhance our own digital governance services, building also on the relevant Memorandum of Understanding that was signed in Tallinn in 2022.

The situation in Ukraine was also an important part of our discussions. Two years since the illegal Russian invasion and continued aggression, we reiterated that illegality cannot and must not be allowed to prevail. We have an obligation to secure and safeguard Ukraine’s future as a sovereign, free and prosperous nation, principles that should be defended in every instance and without any exception. To that end, today we reconfirmed that we stand and will continue to stand by Ukraine and, of course, the right side of history.

We also discussed the unfolding crisis in the Middle East in the immediate neighbourhood of the European Union (EU). We agreed on the urgent need for de-escalation and relaunch of a results-oriented political horizon based on the agreed United Nations (UN) framework for a two-state solution. I also stressed the need for the EU to play a leading role in these developments, in cooperation with our partners. The Republic of Cyprus, the EU member state closer to the region, having excellent relations with all neighbouring countries, is working towards the creation of conditions of stability and security.

In this context, I had the opportunity to update the President on the latest developments on the “Amalthea Plan”, the Cyprus Maritime Corridor, aiming to provide much needed humanitarian assistance in Gaza. I reiterated that this initiative, which garners support from many countries and international organisations, does not aim to substitute and is supplementary to other efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance to all those in need.

With President Karis, we also discussed the Cyprus problem as 2024 marks the sombre 50th anniversary of the illegal 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the ongoing military occupation of almost 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, of EU territory.

I reassured the President that my vision and sole pursuit, from the first day of assuming my duties as President of the Republic, is to put an end to this half century of occupation, to reunify Cyprus, so that all Cypriots can aspire to a much brighter, common future together.

In the same context, I underlined the importance of the EU itself taking a more active role in contributing of these efforts. The tools that the EU has at its disposal can help us reach a mutually beneficial state of affairs for all, Cypriot people, the EU, Turkey and the wider region.

In welcoming you again to Cyprus, I would like to note that it has been twenty years since the last and actually first ever visit of a President of Estonia to Cyprus in January 2004. That same year, in May 2004, our two countries joined the big family of the EU, even though we are still considered new member states. Twenty years on, it is truly remarkable how our countries and our relations have evolved thanks also to our common European path and identity.

This anniversary, but also your visit today, provides us with an opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved and most importantly, that our obligation as member states is to provide an even better future for our citizens.”

On his part, President Karis said: “I am very pleased to visit Cyprus. I would like to sincerely thank you for the very warm welcome to me and my delegation. It brings me great joy to be here during the year when both Estonia and Cyprus celebrated their 20th anniversary of joining the EU family.

This visit highlights the depth of our partnership with Cyprus and our wish to further nurture our friendly relations. We are both EU member states that navigate a unique political and geographical landscape. We are both like lighthouses by the sea, at the south and north of the EU borders. The fact that a business delegation also joined me in this visit is a testament of strong interest in fostering economic cooperation. Our business delegation comprises representatives from various sectors, including digital and maritime, taking opportunities for collaboration.

I am optimistic that today's business seminar and meeting will give a positive impulse to economic ties.

There are many things we could jointly do. Estonia has expressed readiness to provide a know-how on digitalisation of public administration. I am hoping to revitalise the digital collaboration with mutually recognised EU prescriptions, serving as a tangible outcome of our cooperation. Benefiting tourists visiting our country. Our cooperation extends from the EU to the United Nations and elsewhere. We stand ready to collaborate with Cyprus in your preparations for assuming the EU presidency in 2026.

Despite being situated at opposite ends of Europe, Estonia and Cyprus share common values and confront similar challenges. That means with international crisis, our cooperation to find remedy to what is happening in our neighbourhoods becomes more crucial than ever, as reflected in our discussions.

I would also like to be clear when with regard to our stand on the reunification of Cyprus. We fully support the unification based on a bicommunal and bizonal federation, in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions. We must all do our part to support in achieving this.

Russia’s war in Ukraine is an aggression against all the principles we value. It is important that we continue to stand in solidarity with Ukraine, providing all the help we can.”

He also commended Cyprus for its support to Ukraine.

Referring to Gaza, President Karis said that the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire, adding that Estonia highly values all the efforts Cyprus has undertaken in creating the maritime corridor for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.

With regard to migration, President Karis said that Estonia fully supports Cyprus as a frontline member state facing migration challenges, adding that his country has actively contributed expertise and resources to EU external border protection through Frontex missions, including in Cyprus.

Asked if EU countries should discuss a more dynamic role regarding the war in Ukraine and also if it is time for EU to assume a more active role regarding Middle East, President Christodoulides said: “Cyprus from the very beginning was on the right side of history.

We know very well what invasion and occupation mean. And we believe that the EU should use all means available in order to face Russian aggression. Of course, each member state has its own capabilities that can offer to the EU in its effort with other international partners, because the EU needs the support of other international partners in order to face the situation in Ukraine. Regarding the situation in Gaza, Cyprus is the closest EU member state in the region, a country with excellent relations with all neighbouring countries. We are trying our best in order to face the humanitarian challenges in Gaza. At the same time, we want to see much more EU involvement in the region.

Two weeks ago, the President of the European Commission visited Egypt as a clear sign of EU involvement in the region. I think we need much more involvement and I hope that pretty soon we will be in a position to visit the other countries in the region together with the President of the Commission. For example, Lebanon which is facing a lot of challenges. Moreover, what affects Cyprus, also affects the EU. And I am talking about the migration crisis.”

On his part, President Karis said that Estonia has been supporting Ukraine from the very beginning of the escalation of the war and asked all EU countries to support Ukraine, pointing out, however, that the most important thing is for the war to end.

With regard the situation in Gaza, President Karis said: “We really appreciate what you have done, which is the corridor to Gaza, to help these people who are in need and to continue to do so.”

Replying to a question whether they have discussed specific ways with regard to strengthening bilateral relations in the fields of economy and investments as well as tourism, President Christodoulides said: “We discussed ways to enhance our bilateral relations. We have very good bilateral relations, but there is a lot of untapped potential, especially on issues related to cybersecurity, digitalisation, maritime and, of course, tourism. And the fact that the President is in Cyprus with a business delegation, I think it is a clear indication of the interest of the Estonian business community for investing in Cyprus. I am looking forward to reciprocating the visit to Tallinn with a Cypriot business delegation in order to create the conditions for our business people to work together.”

Replying to the same question, the President of Estonia said: “I think that is an important thing that your people are going to visit Estonia, because we can come here, tell the stories, but it is important to come and see. And, of course, we have something to share with you.”

He added that many things can be done as far as bilateral cooperation is concerned in the fields of tourism and connectivity, noting that the two Presidents and their delegations have discussed the issue related to direct flights connecting the two countries.

For the statements of the two Presidents, click here.