The Secretariat of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK hosted the Minister of Defence of Republic of Cyprus’, Mr. Michalis Giorgallas, for a working dinner on Monday 20th November. In his opening remarks, the Defence Minister praised the Federation and UK Cypriot diaspora’s contribution to both Britain and Cyprus and also outlined Cyprus’ defence priorities, efforts towards stability in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as initiatives by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to make the island a safe and predictable hub for the Region.

The Minister briefed the Federation’s Secretariat about the Republic of Cyprus’ role as a beacon of stability and a safe hub in the Eastern Mediterranean. He noted the Government of Cyprus’ efforts to facilitate the repatriation of foreign nationals from the Israel-Gaza conflict and the War in Sudan, as well as the establishment of a humanitarian maritime corridor for the provision of aid to Gaza. Speaking about the Cyprus problem, the Minister referred to the initiatives of President Christodoulides to restart negotiations for a solution in line with UN resolutions. He said that he hoped the President’s initiatives will be met with understanding by all parties involved.

The Minister went on to inform the Secretariat about his meeting with his British counterpart, Secretary of State for Defence Grant Schapps MP on Tuesday 21 November. Referring to Britain specifically, he noted the role of the Federation and UK Cypriot community in keeping the Cyprus problem on the British political agenda. After the Minister’s remarks, there was a roundtable discussion with the Minister. Topics discussed included recent developments regarding the recent attempt to build an unauthorised road in Pyla, the appointment of a UN Special Envoy on the Cyprus problem and wider geopolitical developments.

On behalf of the Federation, the President, Christos Karaolis welcomed the Defence Minister on his first official visit to the United Kingdom. He said to the Minister that, “in the short time since President Christodoulides’ election in February, we have been delighted to already have hosted the President, Foreign Minister, Deputy Minister for Tourism and now yourself.” Mr Karaolis thanked the Minister for his briefing during this year’s POMAK conference, where he outlined Cyprus’ international role in security and emergency response. He highlighted that “in the last few months alone, Cyprus has once again demonstrated its strategic importance” by “providing repatriation routes in times of dispute and duress,” referring to the examples given by the Minister.

In addition to Cyprus’ international role, Mr Karaolis noted the strong bilateral defence partnership between the UK and Cyprus. He quoted UK Minister of Defence and Armed Forces, James Heappey MP, in saying that ‘the UK and Cypriot national guard share a “long-standing and fruitful bilateral defence relationship.” He went on to say that this relationship includes recent joint exercises such as ARGONAUT, NEMESIS and CAMBRIAN PATROL that are driven by the Bilateral Defence Cooperation Programme between the UK and Cyprus.

Concluding his address, Mr Karaolis reaffirmed the Federation’s focus on a resolution to the Cyprus Problem. He stated that “we remain steadfast in our commitment and action to support President Christodoulides and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to restart negotiations so that the island can finally be free from Turkish occupation and reunited in line with the agreed UN framework.” Referring to recent actions, he added that “only last week, on the tragic anniversary of the illegal UDI on 15 November, we were at the Foreign Office and in Parliament opposing the UDI and reiterating these calls to Officials and Parliamentarians, as well as delivering resolutions to the Turkish Ambassador and 10 Downing Street calling for a free united Cyprus.”

Also in attendance was High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus, Andreas Kakouris; Deputy High Commissioner, Spyros Miltiades; Consul General, Odysseas Odysseos; Diplomatic Advisor, Ms Elena Rafti; MoD Defence Attache, Lt Theocharis Onoufriou; Defence Policy Director, MoD Lt Col Neofytos Neofytou; Political Counsellor, Melivia Dimitriou; Desk Officer; Phedon Phedonos; Minister’s MA, Captain Stefanos Stefanou; Federation Vice-Presidents, Andreas Papaevripides (also POMAK President), Michael Ellinas, Ninos Koumettou; Federation General Secretary, Antonia Michaelides; NEPOMAK President, Christos Tuton; NEPOMAK UK President, Adrian Patsalos; Federation Executive Secretary, Andreas Karaolis and representatives of the Federation’s member associations.