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Triangulating stability
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 29 - 11 - 2017

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi visited Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, on Monday for the fifth tripartite summit with the leaders of Cyprus and Greece.
During the two-day visit Al-Sisi met with his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades and with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Combatting terrorism was high on the agenda of the three leaders during their meeting early Tuesday. According to an official statement issued by the presidency, Al-Sisi said the situation in Syria and Libya had led to an unprecedented wave of migrants.
“These crises have also resulted in an expansion in the activities of terrorist groups,” said Al-Sisi.
Al-Sisi and Anastasiades attended the signing of two memoranda of understanding (MoUs) covering health, IT and communications, and ratified an executive programme for security cooperation.
The two also discussed ways to strengthen bilateral relations, with a particular focus on energy. Al-Sisi said recent gas and oil discoveries would not only promote stability in the Eastern Mediterranean but help supply Europe with its energy needs and allow Egypt and Cyprus to play a role in formulating regional energy policies.
Anastasiades said Cyprus was looking forward to cooperating with Egypt to export its own gas to other countries.
“Cyprus has so far been unable to export gas because of the absence of the necessary infrastructure. If we can do so via Egypt it will benefit both countries,” he said.
Cyprus is keen to use Egypt's liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities at Damietta to enable it to export gas from the Aphrodite field off its southern coast. With 4.5 trillion cubic feet of reserves the Aphrodite field could cover Cyprus's needs for 25 years and still leave 90 per cent for export, say experts.
Cyprus has been unable to export the gas because it does not have the infrastructure to do so. Creating that infrastructure would be very costly.
An Egyptian-Cypriot Business Forum was organized on the sidelines of the visit with the goal of boosting economic cooperation.
During the visit Al-Sisi was awarded the Order of Makarios III, Cyprus's highest order of merit. President Al-Sisi invested Anastasiades with the Order of the Nile, Egypt's highest state honour, in recognition of his role promoting friendship between the two states.
On Monday Al-Sisi addressed the Cypriot parliament and met with its speaker Demetris Syllouris.
Al-Sisi stressed that the battle against terrorism required concerted efforts from the entire international community, including increased political pressure being applied on states that support and fund terrorism, greater exchange of information and expertise, enhanced intercultural dialogue and a concerted effort to address the development needs of poorer states. Al-Sisi also expressed Egypt's ongoing commitment to the reunification of Cyprus.
Yasmine Fouad, professor of economics at Cairo University, says the partnership between Egypt, Cyprus and Greece is based on the will of all three to promote their mutual interests through a productive and constructive dialogue. “All three states are keen to build their institutional cooperation for the benefit of all,” said Fouad.
The positions of the three countries on a range of regional issues have converged, she says.
“Cyprus and Greece both support a just, comprehensive and permanent solution to the Middle East problem.”
Political analyst and professor of political science at Cairo University Hassan Nafaa believes the proximity of all three states to regional centres of crisis means “their cooperation offers added value, not only to the three countries but also to the EU and for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in general”.
The trilateral partnership could serve as a model for furthering dialogue and promoting relations between other EU countries and southern Mediterranean states, argues Nafaa.
“These regional alliances are of immense importance given the instability in Syria and the long-standing conflict between Israel and Palestine.”
The first tripartite summit between Egypt, Greece and Cyprus was held in Cairo in 2014.

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