Entretien de l’Ambassadeur à CNA
L’Ambassadeur de France à Chypre, M. Jean-Luc Florent, a donné une interview à l’agence de presse Cyprus News Agency, en anglais, le 12 mai 2014.
CNA - Maria Myles - Nicosia 14/5/2014 11:09
France has always held a principled position on the question of Cyprus, based on international law, the country’s Ambassador here Jean-Luc Florent has said, expressing at the same time his support for the ongoing negotiations towards a political settlement that would reunite Cyprus.
In an interview with CNA, he said France only acts more discreetly with regard to the Cyprus issue but it is not out of the picture and has offered its help, but will act if the parties ask for it.
Florent believes that people on both sides here evolve towards a solution but warned against putting pressure on the negotiators in terms of time. He also talked about the risk of no solution, which could be partition.
The Ambassador said bilateral ties are excellent within the EU, at the UN, noting that Paris and Nicosia see eye to eye on most issues at hand. He referred to increased exchanges between the two countries, saying also that French President Francois Holland is likely to visit Cyprus before the end of the year.
He also said cooperation on defence and military concerns is very close, and expressed appreciation for the facilities Cyprus affords France.
On next week’s European Parliament elections, he said they are very important, but also acknowledged that there is going to be a big abstention.
Commenting on the European Parliament elections, he said these are very important as this will be the first EP entitled to assume all the competences given to it by the Lisbon Treaty, adding that EU heads of state will have to take into account, for the first time, the results of the EP elections.
He said there are 950 French nationals in Cyprus entitled to vote in these elections.
Moreover, he said that polls suggest a big abstention in many countries, including France as people are not as interested in this election as they are in national elections and there are also those who are not satisfied with the EU.
In Cyprus, he said, according to information, abstention could be due to the Eurogroup decision and the impression that Cyprus was badly treated by the Eurogroup and that there was no solidarity shown by the EU. Also it might be a kind of defiance vis a vis the political parties here, he added.
Replying to a question, he said bilateral ties are traditionally excellent, but there is always room for improvement as both sides are willing to enhance this cooperation.
Political contacts intensify, he noted, saying that hopefully this year French President Francois Holland will visit before the end of the year, the first visit to Cyprus by a French President.
“On many other aspects of political issues, on a bilateral, regional and international basis, it is clear that the positions of Nicosia and Paris are most of the time quite the same. On many European issues which arise, political or technical, experience shows that France and Cyprus are quite always on the same line,”, he said, giving as an example the exercise within the EU the exercise on maritime security, which was a joint initiative.
He said at the UN there is a “very good relationship on many aspects, we are always on the same line, eg Middle East process, Syria, Ukraine, at least since Anastasiades’ election.”
On the Cyprus issue and France’s position, the Ambassador had this to say : “France has always taken the position based on international legality, this has not changed, we support Cyprus always when negotiations take place in New York or renewal of UNFICYP or resolutions. Cypriots are very thankful for this.”
Asked if Paris feels left out of the peace effort, currently underway, he replied “We are not left out, we only act more discreetly, we have many contacts with Cyprus on this question, we follow the negotiating process, Paris offered its help but it will be up to the Cyprus parties to ask for specific action from France, to help the solution. We are conscious of the difficulties of the process and this is why we think it is important to give the necessary time to the negotiators to reach an agreement and France is trying to facilitate as it can towards this goal.”
He stressed that “Paris is not on the front line but we are involved as an EU country, all EU members are concerned as Cyprus is a member, this is an issue for Cyprus but also for the EU too and this is why President Anastasiades insists on more EU involvement in the Cyprus issue.”
So within the EU, the UN France acts always to facilitate a settlement, he added.
Asked if he thought Cyprus is heading that way, he acknowledged the process is difficult.
“I believe people on both sides evolve towards a solution and everybody is aware that may be this might be the last chance for an agreement. The risk of no solution would be partition,” he pointed out.
Florent said it is important not to press the peace process in terms of time. “It is better to take time than to try and speed up the process and fail. We hope for an agreement, hope the real difficulties are overcome.”
Asked about cooperation on defence and military matters, he said Cyprus affords France political support with regard to France’s involvement in Mali and the CAR.
Cyprus has donated riffles for the Mali expedition and has sent an officer to headquarters of the EU (located in Greece) for the CAR, he noted.
“We appreciate all the facilities granted by Cyprus to the French navy and air force, we have a certain number of ships putting in at Limassol and Larnaca and aircraft authorized to stop over in Pafos. French soldiers fighting in Afghanistan or Mali, on their way home, used to stop here for 2-3 days before returning home,” he explained.
In mid June L’ Adroit vessel will be in Larnaca for some days and joint exercises with the Cypriot navy will take place, he announced.
Questioned about cooperation on energy matters, he welcomed the participation of Total in the exploration in 2 blocs of the Cypriot exclusive economic zone, noting that other French companies, interested in services related to the oil industry, may be interested too.
“We think it is important that this will facilitate the cooperation with neighbouring countries and may also facilitate Cyprus solution,” he told CNA, expressing hope that this cooperation will last many years and increase, adding that Cypriots train in France, which has expertise with the Petroleum French Institute.
The start of the Franco-cypriot school in 2012 is the most important symbol of close cooperation in education, the Ambassador said, adding that this can help students study in France.
In 2013, some 300 Cypriots were studying in France and next year this figure will increase, he said.
He said next year the school will have 220 pupils, 51% of the current pupils are Cypriots and 70% of those attending nursery classes (aged 2,5 to 6) are Cypriots.
CNA MM/GCH 2014
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY