'Oil and gas are a blessing,' says Christofias
Beirut – Georges Chahine
Lebanese President Michel Sleiman has pledged to increase cooperation with Cyprus after welcoming his Cypriot counterpart Demetris Christofias to Lebanon.
Top officials from both countries took part in a summit at the Baabda Presidential Palace on Thursday, and held talks about working together.
Speaking afterwards, President Sleiman highlighted the need to establish a closer relationship with Cyprus especially in matters related to oil and gas resources in their maritime territories. The president called for an agreement on principles and mechanisms that would allow the resources to be extracted.
Christofias renewed his country's support for Lebanon and said the "blessing" of oil and gas would "create new horizons for our people." He promised that Cyprus will continue to exercise its sovereign rights and rejects "any policies based on threats and intimidation."
On Syria, Sleiman said he was hopeful that the diplomatic efforts would be a success to "crystallise a consensual political solution that would allow Syrians to achieve the reform and democracy they wish for, as well as allowing hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have fled to Lebanon to return to their homes with dignity."
The Lebanese president reiterated the "genuine challenge" arising from the flow of refugees into the country, which he said required "urgent attention" from all parties involved to "share the burden in terms of numbers and costs."
Sleiman's Cypriot counterpart praised the Lebanese regime for its "contributions in the face of the human tragedy, by sheltering tens of thousands of refugees." The president announced that his country, as a member of the European Union, would "do everything in its power to increase Europe's assistance to Lebanon and enable it to provide for the Syrian refugees."
Christofias also expressed his concern at the "instability and bloodshed" in Syria and said he is hoping "that things will soon settle in accordance with the Syrian people's will."
After the summit, the two leaders exchanged gifts and the Cypriot guest wrote a message of support, friendship and gratitude in the guestbook. The duo were then joined by ministers from both countries for talks in the cabinet chamber. The two countries signed an agreement on the mutual protection of classified information, along with two memorandums of understanding. The first agreement was between the Lebanese Ministry of Industry and the Cypriot Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism. The second agreement was based on defence and military cooperation.
The two presidents also planted a tree dedicated to Lebanese-Cypriot friendship in the Baabda palace gardens.