Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus

The President of the Republic, Mr Nikos Christodoulides, and the President of the Italian Republic, Mr Sergio Mattarella, reaffirmed on Monday, 26 February 2024, their common will to further strengthen the already excellent relations between Cyprus and Italy, in the framework of their statements to the media, following their meeting at the Presidential Palace.

During their joint statements, in the framework of the first official visit of an Italian President to the Republic of Cyprus, President Christodoulides said that this first visit of the President of Italy to Cyprus is historic, adding that "it is an indication of the mutual desire to strengthen the already close relations.

Cyprus and Italy have been linked since ancient times through a common historical tradition, through the cultural exchanges between our peoples and of course through our common home, the Mediterranean Sea. Our historical relations are highlighted in many archaeological sites in Cyprus, one of which, the Roman mosaics of Pafos, my homeland, which we will have the opportunity to visit tomorrow with President Mattarella.

Our countries cooperate closely bilaterally, as well as within the European Union (EU), and I am particularly pleased that President Mattarella's visit coincides with the 20th anniversary of our accession to the EU, which for us is the most important success for our country.

Cyprus and Italy also cooperate in the context of the nine Mediterranean EU Member States, as well as on the issue of migration in the context of the five Mediterranean Member States in particular.

"Today we had a very productive meeting with the Italian President, where we discussed, among other things, our bilateral relations. We emphasized on areas where our cooperation is very close, such as Energy, where the Italian ENI is active in a large number of blocks of the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and we even had the positive completion of the drilling evaluation in the ''Kronos 2'' reservoir recently.

At the same time, we discussed ways to further strengthen our cooperation on Defence and Security issues, as well as Culture.

As regards Defence, there is already close cooperation with joint exercises and trainings, also with other countries such as Greece and France. There is a very important annual exercise for the need to ensure security conditions and cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In the field of Culture, it is our common desire to deepen our cooperation through the signing of a Memorandum that will institutionalise cooperation between the two countries.

I publicly thank the Italian Government, the Italian Authorities for the cooperation with our competent Services very recently, for the repatriation of antiquities of Cypriot origin that were found in Italy.

Of course, today we could not fail to discuss the Cyprus problem and Euro-Turkish issues, which are interrelated, also taking into account that this year is another anniversary for the Republic of Cyprus, a sad anniversary, since it marks 50 years since the Turkish invasion and the continued occupation of European territory, the territory of an EU member state.

In this context, I conveyed to the Italian President – with whom we will shortly visit the ceasefire line – my readiness and determination to make every possible effort to resume the talks to resolve the Cyprus problem on the basis of the agreed framework. This is another area where the EU can play a decisive role, taking into account both the tools at its disposal and the need to further strengthen Turkey's relations with the EU.

We also discussed Migration, a huge challenge for both countries. We note with interest the Italian initiatives on this issue and we agree with the Italian approach to tackle the root causes of the phenomenon, but also the need for collective action on the part of the EU and the importance of starting to discuss within the EU some issues that until now and for many years, unfortunately, we have not discussed, such as the issue of Syria.

This year also marks two years since the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine.

From the very beginning, the Republic of Cyprus has been on the right side of history, in favour of respect for international law, territorial integrity and the sovereignty of all states.

And we welcomed the fact that at EU level there is this common approach.

We couldn't not discuss developments in our region, in Gaza and in Israel, as Mediterranean countries that are adjacent to the region.

We are watching these developments with great concern. On behalf of the Republic of Cyprus, the Member State directly adjacent to the region, which maintains excellent relations with all neighbouring states, I expressed the need for an end to hostilities and the start of a political process, on the basis of a two-state solution, as the only option for a final resolution of the conflict.

On this issue, the Italian President and I agreed on the need for the EU to play a more prominent role in the developments, both in relation to the transfer of humanitarian aid and the launch of the peace process.

As a closing remark, I would like once again to express my deep gratitude for your presence in Cyprus, for your positive response to my invitation for the historic first visit of an Italian President, a highly esteemed personality both in Italy and in Europe, but also internationally. It is a great honour for our country that you are with us today.”

The Italian President, speaking through an interpreter, said, inter alia: “I have vivid memories of your visit to Rome and it was a great pleasure to accept your invitation”, and he added: “We have witnessed the deep friendly ties between our countries. A friendship dated back to antiquity.”

The President of Italy also said that “over the years the Cyprus-Italian relations have been strengthened with strategically significant cooperations in the Energy sector, but also in other areas in which we have an intense cooperation, both for Cyprus and for the EU. I am referring to the Defence sector. Tomorrow I will also visit the frigate Bergamini in Lemesos. I would like to thank Cyprus for its willingness for cooperation. We also talked about the cultural cooperation in the field of Archaeology and I am particularly delighted that tomorrow I will visit the house of Dionysus in Pafos.”

When he referred to Cyprus’s accession to the EU, he said that this is an important milestone not only for Cyprus but also for the EU.

He added that they also discussed the forthcoming cooperations of the EU, the enlargement and that during their talks earlier they referred to Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.

Regarding the Migration issue, President Mattarella said that Italy and Cyprus are frontline countries, adding that we have the duty and the capacity as the EU to transform a chaotic situation of exploitation of human smuggling into a "coordinated arrival in Europe, in accordance with the needs of the host countries, but legally. In circumstances that require a common European policy, it is urgent to define a new treaty on asylum. It is urgent that we define it promptly and that we come to an agreement with the countries of origin of migratory flows, and work together to improve the living conditions there.”

He also referred to the common principles and values of the two countries concerning the respect for international law.

The President of Italy stressed the importance of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each state and, referring to the Cyprus problem, he said: “This year marks a sombre anniversary, the Cyprus problem must be finally resolved. It is fundamental for the balance in the Mediterranean, not only for Cyprus, but for all the Mediterranean countries, and I include the EU member states as well.

He added that he expressed his appreciation to President Christodoulides for his readiness to continue the dialogue with Turkey for the resolution of the Cyprus problem, noting: “I reiterated that Italy supports a bicommunal, bizonal solution on the basis of United Nations (UN) resolutions, and we welcome the appointment of the personal envoy of the UN Secretary-General, who has a difficult task ahead of her, but is already actively involved in the efforts.”

He also added that tomorrow he will visit the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNIFICYP) and the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP).

President Mattarella also said that he and President Christodoulides discussed the situation in the Middle East, noting that he expressed his appreciation for Cyprus's readiness to become a base for transferring humanitarian aid to Gaza.

"I share the need for a ceasefire", said the President of the Republic of Italy, and he added that it is "a situation that also poses a risk of other problems breaking out". He also said that Italy is ready to support any initiative for the purpose of providing humanitarian aid.

Finally, he noted that in their meeting the two Presidents found that Cyprus and Italy share the same views and together they can "positively influence EU policies and choices".

Afterwards, the two Presidents visited the Nicosia Town Hall, where they were welcomed by the mayor of the city, Mr Constantinos Yiorkadjis, and then walked along the green line in the old town.

The two Presidents were accompanied by President Christodoulides' spouse and President Mattarella's daughter.