The United Arab Emirates and the Republic of Cyprus sign a military cooperation agreement

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On Tuesday 01/12/2021 the Emirati defence minister, Mohamed bin Ahmed al-Bowardi, and his Cypriot counterpart, Charalambos Petrides, held a telematic meeting at which they signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the military and defence area.

Mr al-Bowardi praised the strategic relations between the United Arab Emirates and the Republic of Cyprus, stressing that this memorandum will contribute effectively to strengthening joint action with the aim of increasing defence capabilities.

For his part, the Cypriot minister stressed the importance of this agreement for achieving security and stability in the region. “This memorandum of understanding is the result of our excellent bilateral relations in general and our affinity on a number of international and regional issues,” Petrides said. “We see this MoU as a step towards the development of a strong, sustained and long-term defence partnership between Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates,” he added.

The signing comes just two months after a similar agreement was signed between the UAE and Greece, Cyprus’ major ally. The memorandum signed in November between Athens and Abu Dhabi included a mutual defence clause in the event that either country is threatened.

The agreement, which was ratified during the visit of the Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to the Emirate capital, pursues the goal of contributing to the defence and maintaining the security, sovereignty, unity and territorial independence of Greece and the United Arab Emirates, as far as possible.

The implementation of the agreement will be monitored by joint committees, with the aim of exchanging classified information and stationing military forces of one country in the territory of the other.

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The memoranda signed by the Emirates with Cyprus and Greece are intended to counteract Turkey, with which the three have a difficult relationship. In August four F-16 aircraft of the Emirate’s armed forces were stationed at Souda airbase (Crete) for a month conducting exercises with the US air force while the first episodes of tension between Greece and Turkey over the Oruç Reis in the eastern Mediterranean occurred.

The final chapter in the disputes between Ankara and Athens, which despite belonging to NATO have traditionally maintained tense neighbourly relations, arose from the discovery of hydrocarbons in the waters of the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey’s sending of the ship Oruç Reis to the southern waters of Kastellorizo’s island to carry out a seismic survey set off alarm bells in the Greek capital.

In May 2020, the foreign ministers of Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece and the United Arab Emirates issued a joint statement “denouncing the ongoing illegal Turkish activities in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone and its territorial waters” as representing “a clear violation of international law” as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Turkish government has consistently rejected the Greek accusations of “illegal” prospecting in the vicinity of several of its islands and claims that all of them have been carried out on the Turkish continental shelf.

For the time being, the foreign ministers of Turkey and Greece will resume the talks in Istanbul on January 25 to try to reach an agreement. The Greek Prime Minister expressed that he wanted them to resume where they left off in 2016 and hopes that the bilateral relations will improve from now on.

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The Emirates’ support for Cyprus and Greece is explained by their hostile relationship with Turkey, which is also seen as an obstacle to their interests by neighbouring Saudi Arabia. One of the reasons why most of the Gulf countries severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in 2017 was their increasingly close ties with Ankara. Another example is the Libyan civil war, in which the UAE has been supporting Marshal Haftar while Turkey did the same with the Tripoli government.

Emirates is also interested in Iraq

The Iraqi defence minister, Juma Inad Saadoun, visited Abu Dhabi a few days ago to address military issues of mutual interest. At a meeting with the crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, and the emirate’s defence minister, they discussed the need to broaden cooperation in the military industry in order to guarantee the stability of the region that is so threatened by terrorist groups, and more specifically by Daesh’s remains, which continue to be a problem for Baghdad.