TBY talks to Nicos Anastasiades, President of the Republic of Cyprus, on bilateral relations, attracting FDI, and defense in the region.

HE Nicos Anastasiades
Nicos Anastasiades was inaugurated President of the Republic of Cyprus on February 28, 2013 following his victory in the presidential elections of February 24, 2013. At the time of his election, he was a member of the House of Representatives, where he served since 1981. Since 1995, he has been a member of the National Council (the senior advisory body to the President of Cyprus on the handling of the Cyprus Problem). Anastasiades has represented the Cyprus Parliament internationally since 1991 in his capacity as Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, as Head of the Inter-Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, as well as Head of the Cyprus delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

What is your outlook for future bilateral relations between Cyprus and Lebanon?

Cyprus and Lebanon share a very long history of deep-rooted brotherly relations, based on common principles, values, and fluid people-to-people contacts. These already strong bilateral relations have been further reinforced over the last few years. Consequently, we currently enjoy a genuinely robust bilateral relationship that spans across a wide range of fields and encompasses all spheres of political, economic, and social life. The geographical proximity of our two nations and the long history of contacts between our two peoples can only dictate that the bilateral relations between Cyprus and Lebanon will continue evolving into the future. In addition, the discovery of hydrocarbons in the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean and within our respective Exclusive Economic Zones provides an added impetus for the further, substantial, and accelerated progression of our relations. In recognition of all the above, there is currently—more than ever before—true political will from both sides to significantly supplement the said bilateral relations in all realms.

What is your outlook for trade between both nations in 2013 and which sectors of trade possess more potential for future development?

Cyprus and Lebanon have always shared strong trade links. Lebanon is one of the main trading partners of Cyprus in the Middle East, with total trade of over €60 million in 2012. In the same year, Lebanon was Cyprus' sixth largest export destination of locally produced products. Over the last few years, the main domestic products that Cyprus exports to Lebanon are pharmaceuticals, plastic products, dairy products, and raw hides and skins. Cyprus imports mainly plastic and paper products from Lebanon. Furthermore, trade in services between the two countries was worth approximately €38 million in 2011. Services are the most important sector of the economy of Cyprus and continue to show rapid growth every year. Lebanese companies can use services from Cyprus such as insurance, advertising, accounting, legal, architecture and civil engineering, market research, medical, public relations, education, and software development services. There is also enormous potential for Lebanese entrepreneurs to use the strategic location of Cyprus as a platform for companies focusing on warehouse and logistics services, distribution and headquartering activities, aiming to export to European, African, or Asian markets. Referring to the potential of investment and growth, it is important also to take into account the significant developments in the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean in the energy sector, and particularly in the hydrocarbon sector. The discoveries of large quantities of natural gas in the Levantine Basin, in combination with the potential of future gas findings in the area, create new perspectives and impetus to the role of Eastern Mediterranean in the global energy map and the European energy market. There is no doubt that bilateral trade and economic relations between Cyprus and Lebanon are very important. The aim of my government is to encourage entrepreneurs and the respective Chambers of Commerce and Industry to explore business opportunities between the two countries. We are optimistic about the future of our trade and economic relationship and we believe that there is room for further improvement.

In 2013, Michel Sleiman, President of Lebanon, stated that Cyprus and Lebanon were boosting cooperation and looking into possible ways to explore oil and gas in their waters. What cooperation plans exist over the short term?

The Republic of Cyprus has recently submitted to the Lebanese side a draft text of an agreement concerning the Joint Development and Exploitation of Cross-Median Line Hydrocarbons Reservoirs and proposed the speedy initiation of the negotiations with a view to conclude the above agreement as soon as possible, in order to achieve the optimal exploitation of possible common hydrocarbons resources. Having regard to the fact that Lebanon is in the process of running a licensing round for hydrocarbons exploration and exploitation in its Exclusive Economic Zone, it is important to be mindful of the possibility that there might be one or more hydrocarbons reservoirs, which extend from one side of the Median Line between Cyprus and Lebanon, to the other.

“ Cyprus and Lebanon have always shared strong trade links. "