Cyprus and France strengthen defense ties in cooperation agreement

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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – Cyprus announced on Thursday that it will work with France to purchase and develop weapons and jointly train military personnel under a defense cooperation agreement. According to a statement, the 2017 agreement which entered into force this month also aims to strengthen security at sea and around offshore oil drilling areas, improve crisis management and combat extremism and piracy.

The agreement “constitutes an important step forward in achieving the common objective of ensuring an environment of stability and security in the Eastern Mediterranean,” the statement said.

The Cypriot government has cleared the French energy company Total, which, along with its Italian partner Eni, will conduct exploratory drilling in seven of the 13 zones, or blocks, south of this ethnically divided island nation.

Turkey, which does not recognize Cyprus, a member of the European Union, as a state, has sent research and drilling vessels escorted by warships to waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights, including in areas authorized for Total and Eni.

Turkey insists it acts to protect its interests and those of the island’s separatist Turkish Cypriots in the region’s energy reserves.

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned Turkey’s actions and called for tougher sanctions on the country following talks with his Cypriot counterpart in Paris last month.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides on Wednesday urged the EU to pursue a tougher policy with a larger military footprint in the eastern Mediterranean to fill a power vacuum caused by a perceived US disengagement from the region .

Christodoulides told The Associated Press in an interview that Cyprus is ready to host an EU task force to achieve this goal. He said Macron will host a summit of the EU’s seven Mediterranean countries on September 10 to discuss developments in the region.

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