Cyprus, Egypt and Greece agree to bolster maritime security

Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos said the maritime security tripartite agreement between Greece, Egypt and Cyprus to could expand to neighbouring countries. Credit: Getty

The defence ministers of Cyprus, Egypt and Greece have agreed to boost cooperative efforts to combat drug, weapons and people trafficking in the east Mediterranean and to share information to counter terrorism threats.

Cypriot defence minister Christophoros Fokaides, along with Greek defence minister, Panos Kammenos, and Egyptian defence minister, Sedki Sobhy, announced they would also set up a coordinating body to oversee joint special forces drills to protect vital sea lanes in the east Mediterranean.

The drills are likely to begin in March, which the ministers said will serve to improve the planning of search and rescue operations in the area, as well as protect offshore oil and gas drilling. The ministers added that heightened security is needed in the Suez Canal where much of the West’s oil and trade passes through.

Kammenos told reporters that Cyprus will be a hub for the program due to its key location that joins Africa and the Middle East with Europe.

"The defence cooperation between our countries ... will make possible to secure a zone within this very sensitive sea region between Suez, Cyprus, Crete and Malta, where there will be no trafficking of drugs and weapons that fund terrorism," Kammenos said.

Egypt's Sobhi said it was imperative for the three countries to cooperate in obstructing the movement of terrorists and to freeze their sources of funding and equipment, as well as preventing illegal immigration.

Kammenos added that there had already been a number of military drills in the last couple of years, with the most recent held in December 2017. It included a sea invasion and involved a cooperative action from Egypts naval force, the Hellenic Armed Forces and Air Force and participation from observers from Cyprus, the US, Italy and other countries. This “demonstrated that we can have a common military behaviour where necessary,” said Kammenos.

The strengthened defence ties between the three countries have come as a result of a closer cooperation between the leaders who have held five trilateral meetings over the last two years.

The three ministers also agreed to hold a tripartite meeting at least once a year and to create a coordination committee. Kammenos added that this trilateral cooperation could expand to include other neighbouring countries in the future.

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