Defense ministers from Cyprus, Egypt and Greece have signed an agreement to bolster maritime security as the east Mediterranean faces growing challenges ranging from people trafficking to terrorism-related activities.
The three ministers gathered in Laranca, a city on the southern coast of Cyprus, for the first three-way talks on Thursday to agree to share intelligence on countering the threat of terrorism and to step up cooperation in combating drug, weapons and people trafficking in the region.
As part of their agreement, the officials said a coordinating body would be set up to oversee joint special forces drills aimed at protecting vital sea lanes in the eastern Mediterranean.
Cypriot Defense Minister Christoforos Fokaides said the talks were based on a growing need for more cooperation over increasing security challenges in the region.
“The more uncertain the geopolitical environment around us, the greater the need for predictable partners and policies,” Fokaides said.
Egyptian Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi also highlighted the demand for “cooperation” in the volatile region which includes the Suez Canal through which much of the West’s oil and trade passes.
He said a key element of the joint work to head off potential threats to security was intelligence sharing between the three countries.
Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said the cooperation could cut off vital income sources for terrorist groups operating in the region.
“Trafficking in drugs, weapons and people finances radicalism and terrorism,” Kammenos said, adding, “Defense cooperation will ensure the security of shipping and the search for hydrocarbons.”
The Greek official said the trilateral cooperation could expand to include other neighboring countries, adding that the defense ministers will meet again in the first half of next year.
The maritime cooperation agreement comes following five rounds of meetings between the leaders of Egypt, Greece and Cyprus over the past two years.